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Thriller set off the coast of SOUTH DEVON

10th August 2022

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse, thriller set off the coast of South Devon.

Thriller set off the coast of SOUTH DEVON

The story takes place over a few days on fictional Cary Island, notoriously known locally as Reaper’s Rock, which of course sets the tone for the narrative. It’s located just off the coast of Devon and a boat transfer is necessary to get there. There are centuries-old layers of history, much of it dark and disturbing: “Rumour has it there were mass cremations on the island, plague victims burned to stop the spread of the disease. It’s said that even to this day, ash  from these cremations make up more than 40% of the islands soil.” Literally, on top of that ash strata, the island has seen a mass murderer at work, a fire, all leaving a general feeling of disease.

In it present incarnation, the island plays host to “Lumen”, a luxury eco-resort, which offers a veneer of respectability and is a draw for new people, looking for an off-the-grid experience. Given the island’s history, why on earth would you build afresh….

A group of siblings and partners with wider family arrives. One sibling calls off at the last minute due to work commitments but her partner nevertheless comes. It is time for a bit of family bonding, as there has been discord, difficulty, and fractured relationships have ensued. They bring a sense of unease with them from the off.

Soon, the body of a woman is found on the rocks below the yoga centre, and although it at first looks like an accidental death, it soon becomes apparent that a foul deed has been committed. This may not be the only death on the island and as Elin – a local DS, whom we first met in The Sanatorium (set in Crans Montana) – investigates, things start to unravel across the island. Elin has her own demons and thus she tries to take extra care in how she gets to the nub of crimes, which are stacking up at an inordinate rate. She has blurred boundaries because her partner Will was integral to the design of the retreat and therefore bad publicity is going to be hugely damaging to the whole enterprise. She wants to keep her relationship on track, as well as doing a good job – it’s a tough call.

A storm is brewing out at sea and those who are still on the island will have to face their fears and try and stay safe.

The author always gives her characters a lot of flaws, grievances, secrets and idiosyncrasies, which in turn enables her to put many of the individuals into the perpetrator frame. This makes the plot quite busy (and it can feel a little overly busy at times), as it bowls to its conclusion, which, together with short chapters, does keep the tension tight..

If you enjoy a novel set on a remote island, then take a look at our post:  Locked Room Mysteries, all set on islands, Summer 2022.

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