Book review: Her Last holiday by CL Taylor

I’m always drawn to stories that feature a dysfunctional group of people in a claustrophobic setting so this one set in a sect-like wellness retreat appealed to me straight away.

Description

You come to Soul Shrink to be healed. You don’t expect to die.

Two years ago, Fran’s sister Jenna disappeared on a wellness retreat in Gozo that went terribly wrong.

Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of 2 people. But he has never let on what happened to the third suspected victim: Jenna.

Determined to find out the truth, Fran books herself onto his upcoming retreat – the first since his release – and finds herself face to face with the man who might hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. The only question is, will she escape the retreat alive? Or does someone out there want Jenna’s secrets to stay hidden?

I loved the characterisation, especially Fran, a wilful, opinionated middle aged IT teacher who felt like a breath of fresh air. At the start of the book we learn she’s one of those people who acts first, thinks later and can’t help intervening when she sees another person in trouble. Only someone with her courage and tenacity would take the risk she does to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance, even if it is at her mother’s request. But with her outspoken nature I wondered how long she’d be able to stay undercover and stay out of danger.

As well as Fran’s viewpoint, we have Jenna in a past timeline, and Kate, Tom’s wife and business partner – three very different but equally intriguing women. Does Tom control Kate or Kate control Tom? Is Jenna’s narrative reliable? Bits of back story woven into the tale show the relationship between the sisters – selfish, independent Fran who’s escaped her parents’ disapproval, and kind, obedient Jenna stifling under the spotlight of their attention, encouraged to do what Fran didn’t.

Also on the retreat is Caroline, an undercover reporter, and a collection of suspicious individuals including three guests who were on the original retreat in Gozo with Jenna.

I loved the unsettling atmosphere and escalating tension, and the reveals. Although I guessed the main twist there were plenty of other things which kept me guessing, and the ending was thrilling.

Her last Holiday is CL Taylor’s eighth standalone psychological thriller. If you enjoyed Rachel Abbott’s The Murder Game and Lucy Foley’s The Guest List, there’s a good chance you’ll love this.

It will be published by Avon Books in April, and can be preordered here.


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