Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my publication day review of C.L. Taylor’s latest psychological thriller, ‘Her Last Holiday’. If you regularly read my posts, you will know that C.L. Taylor is one of my all time favourite authors, and I adore her novels. I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this book – thanks so much to Avon for the opportunity! So, keep reading to discover my thoughts…
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?
‘Her Last Holiday’ was published in hardback today (29th April 2021). It is C.L. Taylor’s 8th adult psychological thriller, following on from ‘The Accident’ (April 2014), ‘The Lie’ (April 2015), ‘The Missing’ (April 2016), ‘The Escape’ (March 2017), ‘The Fear’ (March 2018), ‘Sleep’ (April 2019) and ‘Strangers’ (April 2020). She has also written two young adult novels: ‘The Treatment’ (October 2017) and ‘The Island’ (January 2021). Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son.
The novel has received positive praise from the likes of fellow authors such as Elizabeth Haynes: “An absolute belter of a novel. Cally is the absolute queen of the page turner”, Gillian McAllister: “A sensational novel!”, John Marrs: “Wonderfully devious, clever cliffhangers and utterly addictive”, Debbie Howells: “Pure escapism and such a page turner!!” and Susi Holliday: “Another twisty-turny and unputdownable read from the Queen of psychological thrillers. Her Last Holiday is a chillingly plausible tale of why you should never, ever go on a wellness retreat.”
‘Her Last Holiday’ follows the life of Fran, as she embarks upon one of Tom Wade’s retreats; the man responsible for her sister’s disappearance. Tom has recently been released from prison and Fran is determined to uncover the truth about Jenna’s fate. Will she discover the truth, before it’s too late?
The narrative is told from the third-person perspective, with each chapter switching between the lives of of Fran, Jenna and Kate. The reader is given an in-depth insight into each characters’ thoughts, feelings and emotions, as well as a distanced account of the events. The story is split into two timelines: Now (detailing the events as they unfold at the latest Soul Shrink Retreat) and Then (detailing Jenna’s experience of the wellness retreat in Gozo two years’ prior). Overall, the narrative is fairly easy to follow, yet still very effective.
It’s really hard to choose a favourite character between Fran and Jenna – I loved both of them equally for different reasons. In the present day, Fran is strong-willed and determined, and will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance two years previously. She signs up to the latest retreat using a different name and character, in order to try and implicate those responsible in her sister’s disappearance. She doesn’t exactly warm to Tom and Kate, the retreat’s organisers, given the fact that she believes they are responsible. Fran sneaks around and befriends the other characters to try and piece together the events that unfolded on the previous retreats, playing the part of a pseudo-detective. But Fran is by no means perfect, and she makes her fair share of mistakes throughout the novel – putting herself and others in dangerous situations. Fran is a very realistic, well-written character, and I really related to her a lot.
Two years previously, the young and naïve Jenna signs up to the wellness retreat on a whim. She makes friends with the other members and throws herself into retreat life, sparking a significant relationship with Tom. She is eager to please and extremely dedicated to the programme, seeking comfort and solace from the peaceful Gozo island. However, she is too easily persuaded and ends up losing herself to the retreat, finding herself in some very dangerous and vulnerable situations. Once Jenna realises the true meaning of the retreat, she attempts to make things right – but it seems that things are more complicated than they seem. Jenna is another very well-written character, and I really enjoyed finding out more about her and the retreat’s events as the novel progressed.
As the past narrative motors onwards, Jenna finds herself in a very dangerous situation, and must fight for survival. In the present day, Fran uncovers some dark secrets which truly terrify her, putting her in a similar position to her sister. Will she be able to put a stop to the retreat, before everything goes horribly wrong?!
So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a dramatic end scene jam-packed full of action and suspense – I simply couldn’t put the book down! The truth about Jenna finally comes to light, and Fran finds herself in a life-or-death scenario. I was really surprised by the ending and felt that it tied everything together really well – I definitely didn’t see that ending coming! I do have to admit that I found the ending to be a bit unbelievable and far-fetched; but by all means, you may enjoy the ending much more than I did.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you’re interested in reading highly suspenseful novels set in isolated locations. The premise is unique and interesting, and the characters are excellently-written – as with all of Taylor’s novels! For me personally, this novel lacked the “wow” factor that I have found with her previous novels, and I do believe it is quite different to anything Taylor has written before. But this was still a highly enjoyable read that I would happily recommend to my readers – click here to purchase your copy today.
Happy reading 🙂