J A Baker 2017 Bloodhound Books
I am delighted to be part of the Blog Blitz for Her Dark Retreat, a book that appealed to me as soon as I read the description –
The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.
Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by problems from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.
To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.
What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alex really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?
With an astonishing opening that tapped into one of my greatest fears this book had my spine tingling and my full attention from the outset. Suitably tense, this thriller had lots going on, playing on the remoteness of the cottage, coupled with folklore and myths a sinister undertone weaved through this book.
As the blurb suggests, Alec and Peggy with their own childhood baggage are struggling in their marriage, making them both lonely and isolated. Peggy, whose job as an author promotes and allows her isolation combined with her facial scars which amplify her self consciousness resists leaving the house. Alec, in a new job as Deputy Head Teacher is understandably frustrated, needing his wife to engage socially with his new colleagues. Both have secrets aplenty and the author skilfully plants a trail of clues and hints as the story progresses, surrounding the central mystery in this book.
With a strong plot this book was a quick and very decent read. Convinced I worked it out from about half way through my smugness disappeared as the plot twists continued right up to the final page, where I was impressed by the turns taken and the tidiness with which the book had been concluded. This was not your run of the mill thriller and was both entertaining and unpredictable – a perfect combination.
I didn’t hugely like either of the main characters both flawed, although at different points in the story I sympathised with both. They were damaged individuals and within their relationship not eliciting much warmth which I think was deliberate and worked well. A neighbour with dementia added another dimension to this story and this character was portrayed extremely well in terms of her fluctuating grasp of reality combined with her awareness that something was amiss. Through this medium – the confused account of the neighbour coupled with first hand well placed chapters of the unknown victim, another story was told, the secret at the heart of this book. Finally Peggy’s estranged mum, Audrey had her own take on what had happened and was determined to use this to repair her relationship with her daughter and repent past wrongs.
I liked this book a lot, it wasn’t particularly long but in reviewing it I’m impressed with how much was packed in. This was very much a plot driven story with a cast of broken characters largely living in isolation and this was reflected in the writing which was told through a number of narratives, including Peggy, Alec and Audrey with short chapters identifying whose part of the story was being told. The relatively short chapters for me resulted in a classic, ‘just one more chapter’ and I found myself reading for much longer than I intended when I picked up this book.
Well worth reading and definitely recommended, check out the other reviews on this blog blitz –
Born in Middlesbrough too many years ago to mention, J. A. Baker developed a deep appreciation of literature and reading from a young age after being introduced to it by her parents. Weekly visits to the library were the norm and after being handed a collection of Edgar Allen Poe stories by her father, her love for the darker side of fiction slowly grew. She is an avid reader of all books but is drawn in particular, to psychological thrillers.
After many rejections (too many to mention!) her debut novel, Undercurrent, was published by Bloodhound Books in March 2017 and made it into the top 100 Amazon chart in both the UK and Canada. She is currently putting the finishing touches to her third novel and working on her fourth one.
J. A. Baker has four grown up children and lives in a village on the outskirts of Darlington with her husband Richard, and Theo, their barking mad dog.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thewriterjude/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/thewriterjude
My website – http://www.jabakerauthor.co.uk/
Thank you once again to Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for organising this blog blitz and to Sarah and the author for giving me the opportunity to read and review this super thriller.