Sunday 25 April 2021

Her Last Holiday - 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 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?

What did I think?

I love C. L. Taylor books so I know that once I pick one up, I won't be able to put it down.  Her new novel, Her Last Holiday is as gripping and highly addictive as I would expect and I absolutely raced through it, however, I found that I became more puzzled than enraptured as the story went on.

I'll start with the puzzling part...

Whilst the story of Jenna's disappearance and Tom Wade's part in it is very intriguing, the sheer number of characters over two timelines made it a little confusing.  Some characters appear in both timelines but they have different names now and some characters in the present are pretending to be someone else so they have two names too.  It felt like every other character has two personas and I don't know whether it was an issue with the proof copy but the names sometimes got mixed up.  For example, an undercover reporter seemed to switch to her real name (Caroline) part way through with other guests suddenly referring to Joy as Caroline.  Also in Jenna's storyline, Tim and Alison stopped breathing yet it was Tim and Bessie who died.  Did Alison make a miraculous recovery, was Alison also known as Bessie or was this a proof copy mistake?  I certainly did a lot of virtual head scratching but hopefully any possible errors will be corrected in the finished copy and it'll be less confusing.

Now I've got that out of the way, the story itself was very good.  Jenna and Fran have the mother from HELL.  Oh my god, no wonder they are both f$%ked up.  In their mother's eyes, Fran can do no right and Jenna can do no wrong, although the quest for perfection clearly takes its toll and Jenna books herself onto a wellness retreat.  When two people die and Jenna goes missing on his retreat in Malta, Tom Wade is sent to prison.  Two years later, he is released and rather insensitively, as if sticking two fingers up to the victims, sets up another retreat in Wales.  The mother from hell, after losing one daughter this way and without a care for Fran's safety, books a place on the new retreat for Fran.  She is hoping that Fran can find out what happened to Jenna, which is more important to her than keeping her remaining daughter safe.

Fran is a really bad actress and a terrible liar, often forgetting that she's supposed to be called Geraldine and I really feared for her safety.  With so many people not being who they seem to be, I was filled with dread that something awful would happen to her.  It's all very tense and suspenseful as the past is revealed and the present unfolds, which kept me rapidly turning the pages as I approached the satisfying conclusion.  

Her Last Holiday is twisty, intriguing, suspenseful and very addictive.  Nobody writes such addictive storylines as C.L. Taylor.

Many thanks to the publisher, Avon, for sending me an ARC; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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