Her Last Holiday
Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I watched the author on a couple of panels for Locked Up Festival 2 and was interested in reading her books when this one popped up on Pigeonhole. It was fate.
Review copy or purchase
Thank you to the author, publishers Avon Books and online book club Pigeonhole for the chance to read this for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
Fran’s little sister went missing from a self-help retreat. The man running the retreat was jailed for unrelated deaths, but now he’s out and has organised another event. Persuaded (or manipulated) by her mother Fran goes undercover to try and find out what happened to Jenna.
This is a great, well-rounded thriller. Plenty of edge of the seat moments, a real sense of mystery and a pay off that was in keeping with everything that had gone before.
Fran and Jenna are sisters, but they have very little in common. Fran is brusque and fiercely independent, the one who their overbearing mother is always first to criticise and as a result has built up an shell to protect her from the world. Jenna on the other hand is the perfect daughter, a mini me to her mother, even echoing the criticisms of her big sister.
But, when Jenna disappears from an island self-help retreat, missing presumed dead, it’s Fran who takes on the task of trying to find the truth. At first she’s pressured into it by their mother, but she quickly realises that she needs to find out what really happened to Jenna to understand if she could have helped her sister.
Fran joins the same self-help guru, now released from prison for his part in the deaths by misadventure of two other people on the same retreat as Jenna. She goes undercover to discover what really happened to Jenna. Why did she disappear, what do the participants in the retreat know? Do any of them know what happened to Jenna, or were they the cause of Fran’s sister’s disappearance.
I really enjoyed the characters in this. Fran’s ‘say what she thinks’ attitude means she’s refreshingly honest. In another writer’s hands her approach may have been off-putting, but we see enough of Fran’s thoughts to know that she has regrets about her relationship with her sister and does care. We only really get to know Jenna through flashback glimpses and stories of other people, but still there’s a good sense of her to help inform guesses as to whether she disappeared by her own hand or someone else’s.
Fran’s brusqueness brings a sense of fun to the story, as I was always looking forward to her skewering the more airy-fairy elements of the self-help nonsense spewed by the couple running the retreat.
Overall a really enjoyable story and I’m looking forward to discovering more of this author’s books.