Author: C.L. Taylor
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 two 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?
The master of suspense is back. Prepare yourself for the latest nail-shredding, heart-in-mouth rollercoaster ride from the Sunday Times bestseller.
Her Last Holiday is my first novel by C.L. Taylor, but I have a feeling that it will not be my last. This is a duel timeline story as the story takes place in present day and two years prior where the initial event takes place. The back and forth between the two time periods is not for every type of reader as it can disrupt the flow, but the pacing and writing style worked for me.
In the past timeline we have Jenna who attends a retreat on Gozo, one of the 21 islands that make-up the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. I actually looked up pictures of this place and I have added it to my travel list and hope to go there one day as it is gorgeous. During the Soul Shrink retreat, ran by Tom Wade and his wife Kate, Jenna disappears and is presumed dead. There were also two other guests at the same retreat that died. Tom ends up in prison for the two deaths, but the fate of Jenna remains unsolved.
The main story takes place two years in the future, where Jenna’s sister, Fran is set on finding out the truth behind Jenna’s disappearance after Tom is released from prison. Soul Shrink has started again, this time in Wales, and will be run by Kate and Tom. Fran’s mother suggests that she attend the new retreat to get closer to the people that could potentially be behind her sister’s death. This plot took me a minute to process as I am not sure I would willingly go to a resort ran by people who could be murderers and behind my sister’s disappearance. As determined as I would be to solve the mystery, I think my mother would be firmly against me going instead of suggesting it.
The story, in general, has suspense, but it takes a while to fully feel the tension. There are bits in the middle where Fran’s time at the resort is a little too drawn out for my taste and I would have preferred some pieces to either be shortened or left out entirely. I enjoyed the addition of Kate as a point of view character as it is interesting to see the inner workings of her part of the story while also seeing the events from the points of view of Jenna and Fran. There are a lot of characters in this novel to keep track of and sometimes trying to keep them all straight in my head took away from my enjoyment of the story.
Fran was an interesting character as she has emotional trauma from the bullying she received as a child plus her parents who had higher expectations. She felt a lot of pressure to be the good daughter and that shaped her personality as an adult. As some of the characters at Fran’s retreat are the same ones from Jenna’s retreat a captivating element was added to the mystery as the reader tries to figure everything out. There were not a lot of characters in this story that I found to be likeable, but they were all written well. Jenna also went through her own emotional journey that helped lead her to go to the retreat in the first place. I found both sisters to be interesting in their own way and I liked how their stories were intertwined.
There are tons of secrets in this story and it was thrilling to read as each one revealed itself. There are some tense moments that cement this novel as a psychological thriller and I found myself fascinated in trying to figure out what will happen next and how it will all come together. The ending itself is good, but it seemed a little rushed compared to the pacing in other parts of the story. Overall, I found this to be a satisfying read and I am very intrigued to read more from this author!
**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Avon Books UK, for a review copy of this entertaining and thrilling novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**