“As Bella drops her son off at university, she’s devastated. It’s been the two of them ever since Asher was born. The only thing helping her through is an upcoming week-long wilderness retreat in Sweden, a surprise gift from her sister and Asher.
The lodge is modern and luxurious – but the surrounding forest is foreboding. Named Dead Man’s Forest after the legend of a local bandit left to die inside a wooden coffin, there are rumours that, on quiet nights, you can still hear the scratching of his fingernails against the lid.
When someone begins leaving unsettling notes, and a figure from her past comes back to haunt her, Bella’s unease grows. This certainly isn’t the restful retreat she signed up for. And when another guest suddenly disappears, Bella fears she might not make it home alive…
Don’t miss this gripping psychological thriller about a blissful holiday that turns into a nightmare, perfect for fans of The Sanatorium and The Guest List.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Wilderness Retreat by Jennifer Moore. The Wilderness Retreat was published earlier this week (on Wednesday 22nd February 2023) in audio and digital formats and will be available in paperback later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Wilderness Retreat but that has in no way influenced my review.
I do love a locked room mystery. The claustrophobic, isolated setting, the cast of untrustworthy, unreliable characters and the often palpable sense of tension heavily laced with a hefty dose of suspicion. They’re an unsettling joy to read and I cannot get enough of them at the moment. Which is why, when The Wilderness Retreat by Jennifer Moore, landed on my radar I jumped at the chance to read it!
The day Bella has been dreading has finally arrived. It’s time to drop her son, Asher, off at university for his first term. It’s the first time Asher has spent any real time away from home and single mum, Bella, is full of worry. How will be cope? Will he be OK? And how will SHE cope, Asher is everything to her. But Bella’s sister and Asher have planned a surprise treat for her – a week long wellness retreat in a Swedish forest. It’s the start of a new phase in Bella’s life and she’s going to ensure she makes the most of it. But on arrival, things start to go wrong. Bella receives a threatening note which immediately makes her question her fellow guests. And when a surprise special guest makes an appearance, Bella’s world is thrown upside down. A week in Dead Man’s Forest may not be the relaxing start to a new phase in her life after all. It may be the death of her…
The Wilderness Retreat is an unsettling, well-written tale which I enjoyed from the first word to the last. Bella is a woman with a lot on her plate. Having had a baby on her own at a young age. Having raised him single-handedly, regularly battling with whether she made the right decision to keep his paternity a secret. Having spent every waking moment putting Asher first and her own needs second, she’s now arrived at a new phase in her life and she’s really not handling it well at all. I felt as though Bella was grieving the loss of her relationship with Asher from the moment they part at the university, which is understandable. Things aren’t going to be the same. He’s off into the big wide world, tasked with looking after himself. He doesn’t need his mum anymore, which we all know won’t be the case but that’s how Bella feels. Although my children are years away from going to university I can empathise. But it did feel a little extreme. For me, Bella was almost consumed with worry over her adult son. This is a plot thread which runs throughout the book and the more Bella fretted over Asher, probably having the time of his life at some party, the more I grew to dislike the character. But you don’t have to like a character to enjoy a book! And often in psychological thrillers the characters are designed to be unlikeable. Which is what the author has achieved with her supporting cast. They’re an odd bunch but they all bring something to the story and being marooned in the woods with them made me feel uneasy and on edge. You certainly don’t feel you can trust any of them, that’s for sure!
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a well-written, slow burn, locked room mystery with lashings of psychological suspense then make sure you get yourself a copy of The Wilderness Retreat. I loved the setting which was beautifully atmospheric and isolated. The characters are multi-layered and each individual really brings something to the story. And the plot was full of suspense and well-pitched tension. I was able to guess whodunit from fairly early on AND their reasons for doing so, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel. Overall, I enjoyed The Wilderness Retreat and would recommend to all fans of the genre.
I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Wilderness Retreat. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Wilderness Retreat by Jennifer Moore was published in the UK by HQ Digital and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |
Jennifer Moore is a novelist and children’s author (writing as Jenny Moore) from Devon. Her short fiction has been widely published on both sides of the Atlantic and she was the first ever UK writer to win the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.