Map of Blue Book Balloon

1 December 2020

#Review - The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

The Last Resort
Susi Holliday
Thomas & Mercer, 1 December 2020
Available as: PB, 283pp, e, audio
Source: Advance copy
ISBN (PB): 9781542020015 

I'm grateful to the author for an advance copy of The Last Resort to consider for review. 

I  enjoyed Susi Holliday's recent psychological thrillers The Lingering and Violet so was very keen to see what she wrote next and The Last Resort didn't disappoint. It belongs to a very definite (and rather different) subgenre, the "last man standing" thriller where a disparate group are brought together in an environment they can't escape and challenged to survive. It's both a contemporary genre, and one with deep roots - think And Then There Were None, which The Last Resort has some affinity with, being set own an island with each character possessing one or more guilty secret. Indeed, the book affectionately tips its hat to Christie and - some way in - its protagonists, realising what genre they're in, comment knowing on what may be in store. 

I rather like this sort of self awareness (I'm avoiding the "meta" word) and it's only one of the many respects that, in this book, Holliday simply OWNS the format. From the setup - seven strangers on a plane, invited on a dream holiday, in reality off to who knows where - through the subsequent dangers, to the enigmatic last page, this is a book that demands attention. The group members themselves are satisfyingly portrayed - Amelia, a development worker, Tiggy, a social media "influencer", Giles, the games designer, gossip columnist Lucy, photographer James, Scott, who flogs dodgy dietary supplements and Brenda, the venture capitalist. While 283 pages isn't much to give a rounded description of this many people Holliday makes them distinctive and creates a real personality for each, avoiding them being stereotypes - it would be too easily simply to make everyone nasty, all the time, to set up the necessary conflict but that doesn't happen here. 

As the group progresses following the instructions of their enigmatic host, there are of course rifts between some, stoked by the mysterious revelations about their pasts and the fear of what is being done to them (are their minds being read? How closely are they being surveilled? Above all, why were they chosen?) but these arise organically from the characters as depicted, they aren't imposed. 

And there is a real mystery here. The reader too will wonder what, exactly, is going on. Obviously all are being manipulated, but why? What does it have to do with the interpolated story - set in 2000 - featuring two new characters? That's, of course, the puzzle which Amelia and the rest have to solve too, although they're not being given all the pieces we are and it creates a real sense of doubt for us as we follow their plight. I did work my way to the solution before the big reveal, but not that long before, and again, the key turns out to be motivations and character, so you need to watch everyone closely.

In all, The Last Resort (the title has to be ironic!) was great fun to read, with plenty of surprises and some real shocks. While it playfully hints at what's going on by its references to earlier examples of this genre, those should not all be taken at face value - things are tricksy here! 

For more information about The Last Resort and about the author's other books, see her website here. You can buy The Last Resort from Amazon here.

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