Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

‘The Retreat’ Hits a Snag


The Retreat

By Sarah Pearse

Publisher: Viking, 2022

Pages:  Waaaaay too many

Genre: Who cares?

Via: Library

Ever grab a new book by an unfamiliar author? Feel that surge of excitement as you peruse the cover blurb and the synopsis? Break in to your happy dance with that “Oh yeah!” feeling? …

… Only to start reading and feel like you just walked into a blender.

That’s what Sarah Pearse’s The Retreat is like. It came highly recommended as a “cliffhanger murder mystery” by someone who shall remain nameless.

What we wound up with was a badly overwritten hunk of junk that doesn’t really get going until Chapter 44. We would’ve ordinarily bailed out long before then. But we promised a friend (who shall remain nameless) we’d read the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like a mistake at the time.

Just shows you what we know.


This book is so over-rated, it could give the L.A. Dodgers a run for their money.

In fact, we weren’t even going to waste our time on a review of this clunker. But since we promised someone who shall remain nameless – we really oughtta stop doing that – here goes.

Basic Plot

A woman’s broken body has been found on the rocks of an island luxury retreat off the coast of England. Was it an accident – a fall off a cliffside balustrade – or something else? When more dead bodies start piling up, Detective Elin Warner soon learns that the first victim wasn’t a guest – in fact, she wasn’t supposed to be on the island at all.

The island itself has a dark past. (This goes on for like, about a million years. Zzzzzz.) But why would someone target guests at this swank resort? Elin begins to suspect the deaths are not only not accidental, but they’re connected. Can she find the killer before history repeats itself?

Pass the No Doze

Can we stay awake that long?

Cuz it takes a ton of energy to keep plowing through this snoozer. For one thing, much of the writing is unfocused and lacks discipline. It’s almost as if the author’s trying to impress us with her word count.

Worse, the story is all over the place. Here a place. There a place. Everywhere a place, place… It bobs around like a cork in a typhoon. (Mom: And me without my Dramamine. Oopsie.)

There are also repeated issues with word choice, usage, and verb tense confusion. The action/narration often switches from present to past tense in the same chapter.

Additionally, the author is British. We’re fine with that. Except she seems to forget that some of her word choices will go thud to non-Britishers. Like:

  • They find Jo’s bag on the beach. We’re thinking sea bag. Grocery bag. Gift bag. Barf bag. Doggie bag? Nope. The author means purse.
  • She uses the word “parasol” to describe patio umbrellas.
  • Phrases like “members of the staff” handed out sandwiches. That’s gonna sound weird to those used to “staff member” or even more simply, “staffer.”
  • And when Elin fishes something out of the villa bin? We’re thinking storage bin? Dust bin? Shelf bin? She means trash or waste basket.


The character of Jo – one of three sisters who’s overbearing, manipulative, self-centric and as warm and fuzzy as an iceberg – is straight out of central casting. So is her sis, Hana. Hana turns in a credible performance as the grieving widow – until we find out she isn’t. Cousin Maya is incredibly reliable as a cardboard cut-out.

The rest of the cast? Hopelessly mired in a plot that’s as inspired as a bowl of Jell-o. It moves like a snail stuck in a molasses factory. Pass the No Doze.

Indeed, The Retreat is Exhibit A in why you can use the New York Times Bestseller List to line the bottom of the nearest  bird cage. With apologies to Tweety.

Our Rating: 1.5


2 thoughts on “‘The Retreat’ Hits a Snag

  1. Hey, long time. Another amusing review from the greatest review pair I know. Had to comment because of the “Dramamine” mention. Thanks to Mr. Meniere’s, I’m never without it. In case you don’t remember me, Thirteen Miracles and Bebo for a memory jog.

    • We remember Thirteen Miracles and Bebo! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Great to hear from you!👏🐾👍

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