Thursday 31 December 2020

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

 This was my kindle first read choice for November, so I got it for free. 

I have had little joy with my kindle first read choices and unfortunately this book was not one that I enjoyed.

Be aware there is a spoiler in the review below.

The blurb - "When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of."

I quite like a murder mystery and thought this sounded interesting and whilst it started off well - six strangers get on a plane together, they are off to a mystery location to test a brand new product for Timeo Technologies. It quickly went downhill as it became apparent that the characters were only there to serve the plot.

As a reader we know who we're meant to like because they have the least awful secrets, we know who we're meant to hate because they are portrayed as having no redeeming qualities. We don't get close to the characters to find out why they are the way they are because the narration style is such that we are basically told what to think.

The characters also behave in ways that aren't believable. When they arrive they are told to clip a device behind their ear, it quickly becomes apparent after the first person puts it on, that it actually burrows inside your head, as that first person is unable to remove it. But the other four people put up very little resistance to also attaching one of these things to their skull. (Yes, just four, Amelia doesn't have to do it, she gets to wear a wrist band).

I can accept that people will behave like sheep within certain social situations but I'm not sure I'd include having an untested piece of technology stuck into my brain.

Another character is bitten by a snake. But insists long past the point of credibility that she hasn't been bitten - because the character's actions have to serve the plot. A more sympathetic narration would allow for the fact that everyone has secrets and no-one looks good underneath a microscope, but that's not what you're getting here.

There are also two plot threads - the six people stranded on the island testing the technology and the other thread takes place in the past. All the way through the book you are waiting for the pay-off for these two threads to come together in a coherent way and for everything to be explained, for us to understand why these people have been lured to the island. Please don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

The first part of the book is the most interesting as they explore the island and you (the reader) know they are going to be picked off one by one, as you discover what their secrets are.

Everything (for me) falls apart in the last third. I was hoping for something that was going to gel all of this together and make for a satisfying ending. (You know, like at the end of an Agatha Christie when the clever detective puts it altogether for you and realise all those clues that you missed). Instead it went batshit crazy and that was three or four hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I think what I'm most disappointed about is that it didn't live up to it's promise. It was reasonably well written, the author had some interesting ideas about the uses of virtual technology and it was quite a compulsive read because you wanted to know what was going to happen. 

I think if the reason (because there should have been one) for the characters being brought to the island had been better thought out and the author had just concentrated on that plot, rather than tying it to the past in a rushed way at the end, it would have been a better story.