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The Retreat

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The Hunting Party meets The Shining in this chilling literary thriller about a woman who arrives at a remote mountain retreat looking for artistic inspiration when disaster strikes--trapping her among strangers who begin, one by one, to meet unspeakable ends.

Maeve Martin arrives at the High Water Center for the Arts, a gorgeous lodge nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, determined to do one thing: begin her own dance company. A retired performer and mother of two, time is running out for her to find her feet again after the collapse of her disastrous--and violent--marriage. And at first, there's a thrill to being on her own for the first time in years. Isolated in the snowy beauty of the retreat, Maeve can forget the ghost of her past for an hour, for a day. But when an avalanche strikes, Maeve finds herself trapped with six other guests. They've lost all power, phone service, heat, and the road back to town. At first, there's a sense of camaraderie--the fire is warm, the freezer well-stocked. But as the days pass and the storm rages on outside, tensions start to run high. Help is coming, so they just have to hold on, right? Then the first guest meets an unspeakable death. Followed by another. Soon Maeve must admit how little she knows about these strangers . . . and how useless a locked door is if the darkness is already inside.

288 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 20, 2021

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About the author

Elisabeth de Mariaffi

8 books124 followers
Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the author of a new collection of short stories, How To Get Along With Women (Invisible Publishing, 2012).

Her poetry and short fiction have been widely published in magazines across Canada, and she's one of the wild minds behind the highly original Toronto Poetry Vendors, a small press that sells single poems by established Canadian poets through toonie vending machines.

Elisabeth works as Marketing Coordinator for Breakwater Books, and is currently based in St. John's, where she lives with the poet George Murray and their combined brood of four children -- making them CanLit's answer to the Brady Brunch.'

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 177 reviews
Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
656 reviews1,614 followers
August 21, 2021
I’d like to buy this book a one-way ticket to a beautiful retreat called "The Recycling Bin".

Maeve is a dancer with two children and a dark history involving her abusive ex-husband, who’s now dead. She goes on an “artist retreat” at an isolated mountain lodge surrounded by snow. There, she meets other folks looking for artistic inspiration.

After what feels like hours and hours of reading, an avalanche traps the guests from the main road. Then, after a ton of bickering and whatnot, one of them is found dead. The remaining “artists” have to decide if they should stay in the lodge and try to tough it out until they get rescued, or make their way through piles upon piles of snow and try to get help. Either way, more deaths will occur.

The motive of the killer is a real treat...NOT. It’s so ridiculous and out of left field. I wanted to roll my eyes, but it was too much effort. The characters are annoying. There is no backstory to anyone besides Maeve, and even that is brief and without substance.

I’m sorry to say that I was almost bored to tears...and 40-page chapters didn’t help (‼️). I think the only “chilling” thing about it is the fact that I finished it. I don’t know what I was thinking. 🙄 It's slow and drawn out, and not a whole lot occurs. Even the bodies piling up didn’t make it more interesting. The ending is pretty abrupt, but then again...I was glad it was over.

What I liked: The cover.

What I didn’t like: Everything else.

My apologies, but I really don’t have anything positive to say about this one.

Thank you to Mulholland Books for a physical ARC in exchange for an honest review. Now available.

Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
444 reviews719 followers
April 28, 2023
"The Retreat" by Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a read I coulda, shoulda, woulda passed - but didn't!

Mauve, a retired dancer, is at 'High Water Center for the Arts' a retreat in the Rocky Mountains to refresh and refocus before beginning her new career directing her own dance company. Mauve and her two children are finally free from her abusive ex-husband and she's excited for their future.

When it begins snowing like crazy and doesn't stop, an avalanche strikes. Now Mauve is trapped in the lodge with six other 'artist' strangers without electricity, heat, internet or phone service. Tensions run high and strange things begin to happen. That's when Mauve notices that Anna has disappeared.

I probably should have peeked at the mostly low ratings for this one and set it aside, called it a day and not read the darn thing! But, oh no! Here I am with my hopeful perspective and my 'do the right thing' mentality. I start the read. Big mistake!

All of the characters are flat as pancakes, no backstory with the exception of Mauve and even her development feels vague and hollow. Any of them likeable, you ask? An emphatic NO, repeated seven times. A valid reason I should have stopped reading this book. But I didn't!

The chapters are titled Day 1 through Day 7 and as the days progressed the chapters became longer. Day 6 was 54 pages and Day 7 was 82 pages! I never have and never will be a lover of long chapters. It's rude! It makes the book feel long and drawn out. It's when my eyes literally cross and my mind worries about the remainder of my world. Another valid reason to stop but I didn't!

Slow moving, nothing happens until the 50% mark, it slows again and again. It took an 8 day period to read this 279 page ARC because I never felt compelled to pick it back up and skipped reading it for several days at a time. Another valid reason, right?

The ending, you ask? I would never spoil an ending! Now, I'm off to thoroughly enjoy my next amazing read...

Thank you to Mulholland Books and Novel Suspects for a physical ARC of this book. It has been my pleasure to give my honest and voluntary review.
Profile Image for Kayla.
238 reviews5 followers
November 5, 2021
Let me start off by saying this book has one of my favourite thriller tropes - a locked room mystery with a snowy back drop (An Unwanted Guest, The Guest List, and One by One anyone?). Any book with that premise immediately has my attention and I will most likely read it knowing full well there are only so many directions a book like that can take.

The Retreat follows Maeve Martin, a dancer and mom of two who just escaped a rocky marriage. She heads to an isolated center in the mountains for two weeks to work on developing her own dance company. It’s off season when she arrives and she finds herself alone with only six other guests each working on their own artistic endeavour.

Before long an avalanche traps the guests inside and they begin to die mysteriously one by one.

What I loved most about this book is the references to nature and animals. There are some seriously spooky passages involving some of the wildlife. At times I was so lost in the writing I could feel the cold creeping in and the watchful eyes of the wildlife surrounding Maeve as she trudged through the snow. I have to think experiencing the cold east coast winters in Canada helped the author write some of these scenes.

What I didn’t love were the loooooooooooong chapters. When I’m reading a mystery/thriller I love for my chapters to be short and leave me needing to read the next one. This book is written in sections of days and since Maeve is only there for seven it leaves an almost 300 page book only broken up into seven chapters (eight if you count the prologue). That’s a personal preference but it definitely made this book drag on at times for me.

With that being said I need to read more of her writing because she has mastered atmospheric writing.

Be sure to keep your eye out for this one July 20, 2021.

Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins Canada, and the author for giving me the chance to read this one early.
Profile Image for Donna.
1,918 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2021
2.5 stars. A secluded resort with only a few people there in the snowy winter is one of my favorite settings. After reading the synopsis on this one, I had to check and make sure I hadn't read it before since it sounded so similar to several that I've read this year. I guess I gravitate to this story line. Unfortunately, this one was slow paced and I think others have done the story better. I was unsure about a few things when I finished.
Profile Image for Literary Redhead.
1,732 reviews515 followers
July 12, 2021
With a nod to Agatha Christie, THE RETREAT spins a dark and twisty tale set in a gorgeous lodge in the Rockies. Maeve Martin, a retired dancer who wants to start her own dance company, heads to the High Water Center for the Arts for a creative retreat. She’s left behind an abusive marriage and longs for restful time alone.

But when an avalanche hits, she’s trapped with six other guests, and soon, one dies, then another, as I sat gripping my iPhone as I read, heart pounding, gasping at each turn and wondering if anyone would survive. Wooeeeeeeee!

Pace is hindered by too long chapters but that said, I found THE RETREAT riveting. Caution: Don’t read this at night!

Pub Date 20 Jul 2021
#TheRetreat @novelsuspects #novelsuspectsinsiders

Thanks to the author and Novel Suspects for this fab read in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Crystal.
723 reviews102 followers
July 31, 2021
I enjoy a good whodunit mystery. Plus the chilly setting and claustrophobic atmosphere should have made this book a win. Unfortunately it just takes way too long for anything suspenseful to happen. Even after the avalanche, the pacing is incredibly slow and nothing of note happens for awhile. My attention was just in and out trying to read this one.
Profile Image for Krystin | TheF**kingTwist.
498 reviews1,761 followers
March 22, 2023
Book Blog | Bookstagram

I liked the atmosphere and setting of this one, but unfortunately, it mostly fell flat when it came to everything else.

A retired dancer goes to a secluded artist retreat in the mountains to work on her dancing because I guess that has something to do with running her own studio? It’s not explained enough to give me a clue and I’m not a dancer. There are a handful of other artists at the retreat as well, but it’s the off-season so the retreat has Overlook Hotel isolation vibes. The MC, Maeve, has a dead abusive husband and trauma issues due to that which she is bringing with her to the retreat. Then an avalanche hits and everything goes to shit.

Honestly, I found a lot of this confusing and vague. There’s seemingly no backstory for any of the characters so their actions exist untethered in the plot and it rarely makes sense. Maeve, though more fleshed out, gets into situations that go from 0 to 100 without clear directions on how anything escalated.

Nothing really happens in the plot until well past the halfway mark, and given this is written as taking place over one week, it really makes the novel DRAG like hauling a dead body. Like, Oooo it’s snowing again and that weird guy is being creepy but no one can tell me fucking why. Really, just why? I didn’t understand a single character’s motivation. Not a single one.

This was so choppy and disconnected from the reader’s experience.

There was something to the parallels between the past abusive relationship and the little fling Maeve gets into with an overindulgent artist douche, but it didn’t really hit the way it was probably meant to. The ending is a bit flat, but it did try to get crazy with a bear and helicopter nonsense, so points for that.

The vibe for this one:

⭐⭐ | 2 stars

Book source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review
Profile Image for Nicole Wuthering Vines .
524 reviews36 followers
July 19, 2021
This was such an eerie and atmospheric thriller that was extremely well written.

I enjoyed how Mariaffi decided to structure that chapters into the days at the retreat but it ultimately left for some extremely long chapters with just 7 days.

Locked room mysteries are one of my favourite tropes but unfortunately with so many of these out this year, this one fell just a little short for me. I did throughly enjoy how haunting Mariaffi was able to make the book feel by being so descriptive and creating such a cinematic vision.

I do however look forward to checking out more from this Canadian author! Ultimately, this book will leave you with all the chills😉
Profile Image for Belle City Book Lady.
14 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2021
I received this as an ARC through Goodreads. (Thank You!) and I could not wait to devour this.
A few strangers?
An out of the way mountain lodge?
Everyone snowed in each with their own demons?


But oh (Tears falling...) Oh Oh no (Little sobs...) no (Sniffle) It didn't live up to what I had created in my mind. It gave me the creeps alright, but the creeps stopped once I learned what exactly was happening and then I thought that there was not NEARLY enough of a backstory or even development to give credence the way this turned out. It was like this amazing atmospheric story was thought up with good and creepy development among a creepy setting and then someone must have said, "Okay guys, that's all I got. Just toss a few creepy people in there and make the one of the creeps go after the main character." That's basically what happened. And I wanted to LOVE this so badly!!! I thought I was going to as I was reading and then it all fell flat.

Why go through all the trouble of walking up to the plate, writing a deliciously menacing atmosphere and cast that could just knock this one out of the park, and then not follow through on the swing?

Why did ____ choose her? We don't even really see this obsession developing to that intensity and when it's revealed it's _____, I sat there saying to the book, "Yeah but WHY?" There was no good motive here. There was no good backstory so the antagonist can make some sort of sense to the readers for what he/she does with the MC. No wild twist to reveal....anything. The writing continued and the excitement crescendo-d and then it all just fell off a 6 story building and broke both of its legs. Meh. I didn't want to keep reading after that because... why? As the story continues I just keep getting more irritated that it's continuing without any strong reason for it all to be happening in the first place. Why finish? Well.. So I could write a review, that's why. Hey, Maybe I had hopes in those last few chapters that the antagonist was going to pull an M.O. out of his hat and make this all better but no. no. That didn't happen. And because of this huge, glaringly obvious gap in the plot that didn't seem to bother anyone but me, I just started to not like the whole thing. And that made me sad.
It was going to be so goooood. I know it was. It had been developing really well! Why choose to go out with a confused sigh rather than a terrifically messed up, creeped out, dreadful BOOM. I for sure
thought this was going to blow Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party out of the water but I feel this one didn't even end up at the finish line.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,550 reviews912 followers
July 17, 2021
The low ratings on this made me nervous but I liked The Retreat! After reading a lot of books heavy on dialogue and plot and light on setting, this book moved at a slower pace but did a good job of using an isolated setting and harsh weather to create a lot of suspense.

The story is set at an artists' retreat where a handful of creatives (a journalist, a filmmaker, a dancer, an artist and two administrators) are gathered at one of those exclusive artist retreats. Maeve, the main character, is still a little mistrustful after getting out of an abusive relationship and looks forward to using the time away from her young children to get her career as director of a dance troupe on more solid footing.

But then there's an avalanche. A death. And more and more bad luck. Or is it? For me, the star of this book was the Rocky Mountain setting. After an avalanche cuts the retreat off from the world (no electricity or phone or internet) things start spiraling.

The ending of this was a little crazy (and felt a bit unresolved) but if you don't mind a book with a slower pace and like a lot of atmosphere, definitely check The Retreat out!

Read more of my reviews on JenRyland.com! Let's be friends on Bookstagram!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!
Profile Image for Kristi.
844 reviews202 followers
July 21, 2021
When Maeve arrives at High Water Center for the Arts, she’s embracing the chance to take back her life and create the dance company that will put her back in the field she loves. Coming out of an abusive marriage and raised with a domineering aggressive mother, Maeve is finally in a position to fully pursue her dream.

There are other artists staying at the Center during the off season and at first, it’s a snowy winter wonderland and Maeve is achieving more than she thought possible until an avalanche strikes and the Center is cut off from power including heat and phone service. Maeve and the other guests aren’t very worried – at first - but then things become a bit strained as it becomes harder to stay warm and people begin to crack under pressure. When people begin to die, Maeve has to struggle to stay alive and the number of people she trusts slowly dwindles.

I loved the setting and atmosphere that Ms. De Mariaffi created; it is tense and suspenseful with the locked room mystery theme that I so love! In this case, it’s a locked retreat and everyone is suspect. Each of the characters is uniquely written and there were enough twists and red-herrings to keep me invested throughout.

My thanks to @NovelSuspects for this gifted copy!
Profile Image for Kristina Civille.
382 reviews20 followers
September 13, 2021
I liked The Retreat, but I have read a few books in the past couple months where a group of strangers get stuck at a hotel and guests start getting murdered. While I liked it, I kept comparing it to these other titles which makes it more challenging for me to complete a full review. So I will leave it at this: if you are someone who enjoys books with twists and turns to the very end, I would recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
798 reviews596 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
September 6, 2021
While I usually enjoy snowstorm/locked room thrillers, this one didn't grab me. I read the first couple of chapters then set it aside.
Profile Image for Kayla (krakentoagoodbook).
714 reviews101 followers
July 19, 2021
This book had such a fantastic premise with the locked room mystery type vibe set in a snowy climate. I should have loved it, but unfortunately, I didn't think it had the best execution. The pacing was alright - it's broken up into 7 sections (one per day) instead of chapters. This did make it harder to get through because some of these sections were very long. It would have worked better for me to have chapters with headers describing which day it was. I feel confused and ambivalent about the general plot and reveals. I still don't entirely understand the reasons behind why anything happened.

The characters were not particularly likeable overall. Maeve, the main character, is a former dancer who's trying to become a director. She was previously in an abusive relationship and is trying to recover from this while simultaneously dealing with a strained relationship with her mother. Maeve is alright, but I don't have the best connection to her. The best part of the book for me was this friendship that develops with Anna, one of the other guests. This seems like a really nice friendship, and I wanted to see more of it! Everyone else seemed to be manipulative in their own ways though. I really disliked some of the other characters, especially Dan and Sim because both of them seem very controlling.

While this had great potential, the story was a bit lackluster for me. That being said, I think I'd still be interested in checking out future books from this author.

I received a copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you! All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Emily Kestrel.
1,109 reviews64 followers
October 8, 2021
Seeing all the bad ratings for this book, I went in with incredibly low expectations, and luckily, it wasn’t THAT bad. It wasn’t good, but it was readable. I didn’t feel like the sheer act of reading it was damaging to my brain.

It’s more of a survival/thriller tale than a mystery. There’s a good sense of claustrophobia and panic. Also a good description of a creepy sculpture.

The two main problems, for me, were the writing style and the lack of character development. I know I have mentioned how much I dislike choppy present tense narration, which was in full force here. I know people think writing everything in present tense makes it seem more immediate and exciting, but it doesn’t, especially now that it seems like every other book is written that way. It just makes it distracting.

As for the characters, Maeve was OK as the plucky damsel in distress, but everyone else seemed randomly shoe-horned in just to serve the plot.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it, as there are many far better thrillers out there.
Profile Image for Samantha.
25 reviews1 follower
March 11, 2023
I had tried reading this book months ago and couldn’t get into it. I should have trusted my first impression. I had no real interest in the storyline until about halfway through. The supporting characters seem so random, their stories aren’t really expanded on enough. Because of this, the killer’s motivations are not convincing at all — just a quick way to tie up the story.
Profile Image for Lexy Cabral.
305 reviews29 followers
July 17, 2021
What I liked: The author does a great job with creating such vivid scenes. I loved the atmosphere and some of the descriptions really spooked me.

What I didn’t: The story is broken up into seven days so the chapters are pretty long and can be slow at times. I wanted a bit more from the secondary characters and the ending was a tad abrupt.

This is the first book I’ve read by #ElisabethDeMariaffi and I’m really interested in getting my hands on another one of her books. Thank you so much to @novelsuspects for my #AdvancedReaderCopy!
Profile Image for Mike Dineen.
Author 1 book13 followers
December 6, 2021
I found the prose a little too choppy – I normally like the fragmented-sentence style sometimes used in 1st person, but here it became distracting. The story was a little too slow for me personally, though others might enjoy this type of very slow-building thriller. The only character I really liked was the one to die first! But kudos to the author for the incredible detail around the main character's dancing. Those scenes were very vivid. I also enjoyed the presence of the wildlife and the setting of the story, though admittedly it was hard to imagine some of the scenes being described.

Profile Image for Mariah Napier.
110 reviews
January 18, 2023
I found this book hard to put to down. It was well written, and the atmosphere was great. I love reading about dancers, so that was fun as well.


There were some wildly unbelievable moments. Available shelter, food, water, and a fireplace? Oh yeah, and a natural spa?? Where’s the urgency to seek outside help? What are the stakes?

It’s no wonder most of the population would perish in a zombie apocalypse scenario. No one knows how to survive in the best of conditions.

I also felt the ending could have been better. Nothing that happened was ever fully explained - which is terribly frustrating, and one of my biggest pet peeves. Feels lazy.

Overall though, I did enjoy this.
Profile Image for Anne Logan.
544 reviews
December 2, 2021
This isn’t the first thriller I’ve read about being trapped on a mountain resort during an avalanche, but even knowing the storyline was one I had read before, I still jumped at the chance to read The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi because a) I loved her last book, and b) the setting for this is supposedly based on the Banff Centre for the Arts, a beautiful place I’ve spent many nights, and highly recommend for those who visit Banff! Some people may not relish the thought of reading about a place they know and love being the stage for murder, but I’m not most people, so I had a great deal of fun reading this book.

Plot Summary

Maeve Martin is a single mother of two and a once-famous dancer who is trying to get her career jumpstarted again so she’s going on an artistic retreat in the mountains with the hopes of starting her own dance company. She’s nervous about leaving her kids with her mother, but she’s also desperate to forge her own path again, immersing herself in the world of dance that she so loves and relied on before having kids. She arrives in November, a few days before a big snowstorm is set to hit the mountain range she’s in, and because she’s there in the shoulder season, the skeleton staff are sent home before the storm arrives, as the few artists in attendance can easily take care of themselves under the care of the program director. Everything seems fun and easy, Maeve even indulges in a little fling with a mysterious artist, but when the power goes out and the snow refuses to stop falling, it soon becomes clear that being cut off from everyone in the village below is going to be dangerous, especially when the other artists seem to be hiding so many secrets. Tensions rise as the temperature drops, and the possibility that a grizzly bear is stalking the perimeter of the center keeps people from venturing out for help, until it becomes clear the danger is coming from inside the building too.

My Thoughts

Maeve is a very likeable character, and I was immediately drawn into her hopes and dreams for this retreat. Although she keeps a photo strip of her kids with her at all times, she’s a fiercely independent woman who misses the life she had before children, and is willing to work hard to build the future she wants for herself and her family. Unlike many modern-day thrillers, there is no question that Maeve is innocent of the crimes being perpetrated once the avalanche hits (no spoilers here!), and the secrets that are revealed about Maeve herself are not mind-blowing twists, instead they further develop her history into a believable backstory. We are clearly meant to be on her side for the duration of the novel which adds to the suspense of the story once we realize it’s difficult to trust just about anybody else.

There are competing elements for our attention in this novel; the secrets the other artists hold, the strange behavior of the elk outside, the appearance of large footprints of what must be a grizzly bear, the violent dreams Maeve experiences upon nightfall and the forced isolation of the weather. Although this may sound complicated at first glance, it worked incredibly well at immersing the reader in the plotline, which starts off slow but ramps up quickly until the characters find themselves into an emergency situation without even realizing it. In my somewhat limited outdoor experience, this quite accurately depicts what it’s like to be isolated in the mountains – everything seems fine until suddenly it’s not; it’s why I insist on bringing lots of extra water, food and layers whenever my husband and go hiking in the mountain ranges around Calgary. Things can change in an instant, which they do in this book.

I’ll admit to being a tad confused by the ending because I’m still unsure who the biggest threat to Maeve was, but the build up to the climax is just too good to hint at, so I’ll leave it there. For those of you who have read or plan on reading this book, please connect with me so we can discuss the last few pages together!

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Profile Image for Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller.
1,907 reviews33.6k followers
July 25, 2021
For the first time in years, Maeve Martin has some time for herself. The dancer and mother of two young children has extricated herself from an abusive marriage to a brutal, Svengali-like husband. Now, she’ll be spending two weeks at the High Water Center for the Arts, a remote artists’ retreat in the Rocky Mountains. But instead of a blissful period of uninterrupted creativity, what Maeve gets is a nightmarish fight for survival when an avalanche cuts the center off from the outside world.

In THE RETREAT, Canadian author Elisabeth de Mariaffi offers her own twist on the ever-popular “thriller-set-in-an-isolated-location” genre. Things seem off from the moment Maeve arrives at the center in the middle of a November rainstorm that will soon turn into a blizzard. “Be alert. All wildlife is dangerous,” warns a sign as she heads up the mountain. But the real danger lies with the center’s other residents, a group of six artists and support staff who already have established their own rhythms, loyalties and vendettas by the time she gets there. Maeve is very much the new girl in school, unsure of whom she can trust and fearful that some might not hesitate to stab her in the back. Of particular concern is Sadie, an ex-dancer and the inscrutable young assistant to High Water’s charismatic director, a former painter named Karolina, who takes an immediate dislike to Maeve.

An avalanche on Maeve’s third day at the center strands the group at High Water without heat, power or means of calling for help. (Somewhat implausibly, the center’s sole means of communicating with the outside world after the disaster is a small, hand-cranked radio that fails to pick up any signal.) Days pass, and no sign of rescue arrives. The temperature is dropping outside, but in the lodge it’s a hothouse atmosphere. The group grows increasingly restless, splintering into shifting factions as they debate what to do next.

De Mariaffi takes her time --- perhaps too much --- setting the stage and layering on the suspense in her deliberately paced and atmospheric book. The first death doesn’t occur until the novel’s halfway point, when one of the artists is discovered dead outside of the building one morning. Did she merely step out for a late-night cigarette and find herself locked out, with tragic results? Or is something more sinister afoot? De Mariaffi is content to leave it ambiguous. Deaths occur in THE RETREAT, but Maeve does not witness them herself, leaving the question of what exactly happened unclear.

Maeve’s response to the crisis unfolding at High Water is informed by her own past trauma. Her marriage to Iain was violent and controlling, both personally and artistically. Spending time at the retreat is meant to be a way for her to reclaim her voice and, as an aging dancer, move forward to the next stage of her career as a choreographer and director of her own troupe. But the environment at the center ends up calling up past ghosts. After she left him, Iain pursued Maeve from city to city, and that predator-prey dynamic is replicated in the book’s tense final chapter, as she finds herself being hunted across High Water’s treacherous frozen grounds.

At the beginning of THE RETREAT, Maeve reflects on the reasons she has come to High Water. Though only 34, she is, in dance terms, practically geriatric. Giving birth to two children has permanently changed her body (in private, she calls her C-section scar her “career-section”). She must learn to replay her instrument and declare herself as an artist and as an individual. Some of the book’s best scenes feature her working toward that goal. Maeve has spent much of her life following the lead of others --- first, her domineering, demanding mother, and then her husband, who “wanted her driven and exhausted.” “You could never direct, Maeve,” she recalls him telling her. “All you can do is what you’re told.” By the book’s end, she’s learned that not doing what she’s told is key to her survival.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott
593 reviews24 followers
July 22, 2021
3.5/4 of 5 stars
My Five Word TL:DR Review : In two minds about this

The Retreat is going to be an unusual review to write because I seriously am in two minds about this one. On the one hand I loved the writing. The book is absolutely full of atmosphere. It’s a locked room mystery. The setting is excellent and the sense of nature well described but on the other hand I found the ending a little unresolved in some respects and the antagonist lacking motivation or believability.

As the book begins (and after a dramatic opening prologue) we meet Maeve Martin as she arrives at the High Water Centre for the Arts. Tucked up in the Rocky Mountains is a beautiful lodge surrounded by trees and nature. The Retreat boasts quiet space, a stunning lodge and small cabins where people can work uninterrupted. Maeve has taken a two week break and aims to use the time to formulate a plan for her own dance company. Unfortunately, not long after her arrival disaster strikes. Ever worsening weather leads to an avalanche and the centre is completely cut off from any means of contact with the outside world.

Without doubt The Retreat excels in terms of the writing. Mariaffi conjures up a fantastic setting and then proceeds to cloak it in the most creepy and pervasive atmosphere. In fact the first two thirds of the book held me gripped – I sat up into the early hours reading and I can say that I was genuinely a little freaked out – by which I mean scared! The final third was where the ploit started to hot up and the body count began to rise.

I think, if memory serves, that there were seven people left stranded following the avalanche, a mix of people, a couple of characters who run the retreat and a mix of creatives including artists, film makers and dancers. Maeve feels a little like an insider as the others have all met previously and she often doesn’t understand the nuances of the group and their inside jokes. There appears to be rivalry, particularly between certain characters and Maeve’s arrival seems to be the catalyst for things to escalate. Maeve is coming to terms with a number of things. She experienced a violent marriage that has now ended and she is also coming to terms with the fact that her dancing career is coming to a conclusion and trying to think of her future. She’s left her two children in the care of their grandmother although she seemed to have a rocky relationship with her mother that leaves her anxious. We find out much of Maeve’s history over the course of the story but it’s included in a very natural way and adds to the feelings of tension and fear that Maeve experiences.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I think the plot became a little chaotic in the final quarter (or Day 7). I wouldn’t say that I came away from the book with all my questions answered and the eventual murderer seemed very thinly drawn to me. I just didn’t buy into the motivations or reasoning to be honest. I noticed a few reviewers mentioned the over long chapters – I wouldn’t say that I found this a problem but each chapter represents one day and some of the chapters are indeed quite lengthy so bear that in mind.

To be fair to the author, and in spite of my reservations I still came away from this read with more positives than negatives. I loved the writing and I guess the plot played second fiddle a little to that aspect.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Kathy .
3,424 reviews
July 28, 2021
3.5 stars.

The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a tension-filled mystery with a fantastically creepy setting,

Ballet dancer Maeve Martin is thrilled with the opportunity to stay at the High Water Center for the Arts. She does have a few reservations about the isolated location but she shrugs them off soon after her arrival. She gets off on the wrong foot with Sadie Kwon who is Director Karolina Rhys’ assistant. Maeve is excited about her quick friendship with filmmaker Anna Barthelmy. She is flattered by the attention of artist Sim Nielssen and a little leery of facilities’ manager Dan Darling.  Journalist Director Justin Doyle is always ready for fun but he enjoys stirring up trouble. Maeve is finally hitting her stride in the dance studio when an avalanche then winter storms trap her and the others at the isolated lodge.  The death of one of their group convinces Dan it is time to attempt to hike to the nearest village for assistance. Will help arrive before another life is lost?

Maeve is a former up and coming ballet dancer who is now a mother of two young children. Having finally escaped her former controlling, abusive husband, she would like to start her own dance company.  She is planning to use her time at High Water to get back in the groove of dancing again. Maeve mostly keeps to herself, but she feels pressured to spend time with the other guests at the lodge. She really enjoys Anna but the undercurrents between the various people make her uncomfortable. Maeve is also experiencing frightening nightmares that she struggles to understand. When the storm knocks out the electricity and phone service,  Maeve does not if she can trust any of the people she is stranded with at High Water.

The Retreat is an atmospheric mystery with interesting yet underdeveloped characters. Maeve finds it difficult to quiet the negative inner voice of her former husband as she resumes dancing. She also discovers she does not trust her judgment as she gets to know the strangers she is staying with. The other guests already know one another and it is difficult for her to understand the strained relationships between them. The storyline is fast-paced and Elisabeth de Mariaffi turns up the suspense as this intriguing mystery comes to a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion.
Profile Image for Tessa.
116 reviews34 followers
July 19, 2021
⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Still not totally sure about this one.

The Retreat is a tense, suffocating thriller about Maeve Martin, a woman who desperately wishes for two things: to escape her brutal, violent past, and to open her own dance company. She decides to take a trip to a snowy, picturesque mountain art retreat and at first, all is well and lovely — until the avalanche traps her and her fellow art-lovers in their resort with no way of knowing when help is coming. And there is something, or someone, waiting in the shadows for them all.

I was so excited to read this because I *adore* this trope in thrillers. When it's done well it's tight, breath-stealing, exciting, and has you flipping through the pages as fast as you can possibly go because you simply have to know what comes next.

Unfortunately, this one didn't quite hit that mark for me. While the writing was absolutely beautiful and haunting, the chapters droned on, and the build-up vs execution had me scratching my head more than it had me racing to the end game. As the plot unwound itself I was really just wondering — why Maeve? It just doesn't make as much sense as I would like.

But oh, some of the imagery here was stunning. There was definitely a visceral thread of fear, especially when it came to the actual entrapment. Being stuck with a bunch of strangers is scary enough, and that rise of tension between the other people in the retreat would have been much more interesting to explore as a main focal point, I think.

It wasn't completely my cup of tea, but I did enjoy this novel and anyone who has a soft spot for this series of tropes should definitely check it out come 20 July!

*My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for gifting me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Tanja ~ KT Book Reviews .
1,409 reviews191 followers
July 20, 2021

Caught in an avalanche, Mauve is now experiencing more than she bargained for. It was supposed to be a retreat. One to center herself and set the stage for a new career avenue. Instead, Mauve is caught up in the drama of murder.

The Retreat has Agath Christie/Murder on the Orient Express vibes. It's a group of seemingly likable people trying to survive till help comes, but someone is a murderer.

The Retreat of a fun thrill ride. I can't wait to read more from author Elisabeth de Mariaffi.


*Thank you Novel Suspects and Mulholland Books for gifting this read.

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Profile Image for Nicole.
486 reviews11 followers
January 6, 2022
I really loved this book! Dark, twisted and visceral, “The Retreat” Elisabeth de Mariaffi tells the story of Maeve Martin, who is getting her life together after finally escaping the clutches of an abusive husband. Leaving her two children behind in the care of her mother, Maeve heads to the mountains to work on not only herself, but on getting her career as a dancer back on track. At the High Water Center for the Arts, Maeve and several other creatives gather to immerse themselves in their craft. But when the weather suddenly turns bad, when all communication methods are down and the lodge is cut off in the aftermath of an avalanche, the guests begin to turn on each other. And as the body count begins to rise, Maeve begins to wonder just who she can trust or if she can trust anyone at all … even herself.

There is such a deep sense of overwhelming dread in this book, of being trapped and hunted; a looming sense of disaster. The author does such an incredible job of building suspense and then holding it there. Normally I am not a big fan of long chapters but in this case, it worked, and really just kept me immersed in the story. Maeve is such a complex character; she is at once strong and fierce but also naïve and vulnerable. Her internal conflict is in perfect contrast with her external. At times I found myself unsure of which was which or if, perhaps, they were one in the same.

A high tension, cerebral thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last page, “The Retreat” is not to be missed.
1,188 reviews13 followers
April 18, 2021
It is early winter in the mountains in bear territory just before hibernation and High Water Center oozes with atmosphere. Not only does an avalanche force a motley group of off-season guests and maintenance workers together but the days are short (though long!) and dark. At first the thought of a snow day or two appeals but soon the idea of safety and togetherness is shattered. After a body is found suspicion is so strong it can almost be felt. Who do you trust and turn to?

Maeve is one of the guests who goes to the retreat center after an abusive marriage to clear her mind, dance and make plans for opening a dance studio. Her young kids are left at home for two weeks and Maeve misses them like crazy but feels she must do this for herself. Other guests have their own reasons to be there. Weather complicates things. So does murder. Secrets and mysteries swirl as much as the snow.

Closed-room murder mysteries and thrillers are amongst my favourites to read about and this one had me on edge. Trudging through deep snow is very real in my part of the world and the thought of being followed or watched whilst doing it is chilling.

Though I really, really like the premise and story the characters seemed kept at arm's length and a bit flat. The frequency of adult language got distracting at times. But as the story was so good I anticipate reading more from this author. If suspenseful locked-room thrillers are your thing, definitely read this one.

My sincere thank you to HarperCollins Canada and NetGalley for the privilege of reading an e-ARC of this suspenseful book.
Profile Image for Arianna Mclaughlin (arianna.reads).
677 reviews28 followers
July 12, 2021
Locked room books about a group of people stuck together during a snow storm seems to be trending this year. The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a more literary take on the genre.

Maeve Martin is a dancer and a mother of two who was in an abusive relationship, She heads to an isolated arts centre in the mountains to work on her dancing and chorography. Here, she meets a motley crew of other artists at the resort offseason and they are pulled together as the weather closes in and guests start to disappear. Is there a killer in their midst? Will nature keep them trapped?

de Mariaffi's writing is beautifully atmospheric. Her attention to detail with the environment and nature is compelling and really creates the scene. The reoccurring imagery and presence of the bear was especially powerful.

The long chapters gives the book a slower pace and for me, decreased the tension in what should have become a high stakes scenario. As we see everything through Maeve's eyes, we have to question her reliability as a narrator. She keeps herself at arms reach from many of the characters so this is the experience the reader gets as well. Anna was a standout for me and added humour to the environment.

As a locked room mystery, this is not my favourite. I never truly bought into the fear of the human killer- the situations with animals and nature were much more tense for me and I can see that being totally intentional. But where it excels is as an atmospheric literary novel. This was my first read by the author and I will definitely check out more of her work.

Thank you to Mulholland Books, HarperCollins Canada and Negalley for the e-arc to read and review. All thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Paul Sutter.
778 reviews8 followers
August 24, 2021
There have been many books that have centered on the notion of a group of people snowbound at some locale, unable to get out. One by one they end up dead and the big question is, who is the killer? That is somewhat the premise of THE RETREAT, but rather than pout about" same thing same thing", Elisabeth De Mariaffi does it one better by taking something familiar and shaping it into something most complex and complete.
The main character in the book, Maeve Martin is glad to get away and find some quality alone time. The best part of this is getting miles from her ex-abusive husband, making this retreat the highlight of much of her life. She heads to the High Water Center for the Arts, where she plans to spend two weeks at this isolated lodge in the Rocky Mountains. What could be better and what could be a negative?
Plenty it seems, once an unexpected avalanche hits the mountain and the lodge is close to buried, and there is no way to communicate with anyone beyond the lodge. There are six other artists and support staff who are also part of the group, all contained within the snowy sort of tomb. It turns into a challenge to survive and find help, but it seems one of the group will not make it out of there alive. That person is Anna who is found outside dead in the snow.
The group wonders if she went out to smoke, and found herself locked out. When Maeve observes Anna is barefoot, it seems obvious she did not go out without shoes, and that someone had to have taken her out and made sure she would become a human icicle outside.
There are other interesting characters such as Karolina (Karo) Sim, Dan, Sadie, and others. Each one has had interesting things and challenges happen to them in life, and Maeve starts to wonder if one is capable of murder. Others die, such as Karo, found hanging, an apparent suicide, or was it? When some of the group decides to head to the nearest town for help, Maeve begins surmising there is a killer among them, as others are found dead, in more than accidental ways. And then there is a bear to contend with, that Maeve finds as she heads out into the cold mountains.
THE RETREAT is a classic whodunit, a book that will make you retreat to your reading room, and stay there until the final page is finished.
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