The Last Resort by Susi Holliday #BookReview #FirstMondayCrime


Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

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.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

It's the first Monday in December which means it's time for the last First Monday crime panel of the year. Watch Joy Kluver question Susi Holliday, Sam Carrington, Deborah Masson and A.K. Turner on Zoom from 7:30pm this evening on the First Monday Crime Facebook page.  I'm delighted to be sharing my review of The Last Resort today. Many thanks to Joy Kluver, Thomas & Mercer and Susi Holliday for my digital copy of the novel, received through Netgalley.

I've seen The Last Resort summarised as Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None meets Black Mirror and it's almost the perfect description except I'd also add that there's something for Famous Five fans too!
I love a bit of genre blending and it's something that Susi Holliday does superbly; I realise some readers might be reluctant to try a novel with a sci-fi element but although the sinister technology employed on the mysterious island is integral to the plot, it never feels intrusive or out of place. I suspect opinions will be divided as to whether the memory-tracking devices used on guests are a frightening glimpse into the future or something that could never happen but the writing never becomes bogged down with overly technical explanations and I thought added a fascinating new dimension to a familiar scenario.
The book actually opens on a different island in the summer of 2000; two young girls calling themselves Anne and George are involved in a horrific event - more of which is revealed in later flashback chapters in the novel. However, most of the story focuses on the guests who have been handpicked to test out a luxury island resort. Each has signed a non-disclaimer agreement and each has their own reason for accepting the invitation. Although the third-person narrative switches between the female guests - Amelia, Lucy, Brenda and Tiggy, it's Amelia who is central to the novel and she is perhaps the most likeable of the characters. She is also the most unlikely guest as an aid worker who is more used to staying in rather more basic accommodation than a private island with all expenses paid.
After an unsettling flight, however,  it soon becomes clear that this experience isn't what any of the guests had in mind, particularly when they are all fitted with their memory-tracking devices. I really liked their reluctant compliance here; they are obviously not keen on being attached to the trackers but as people are inclined to do, accept them with little more than a few questions and complaints. As the book progresses, these little gadgets prove to be deceptively powerful and to the collective distress of the group, are able to reveal their darkest secrets. Each of them are darkly representative of modern life - there's the apparently vacuous influencer, the seemingly ruthless financier, a gossip columnist, paparazzi photographer, sleazy games designer and a cynical snake-oil nutraceuticals salesman.
Their most shameful moments are exposed intermittently as the guests are forced to work together in what rapidly becomes evident isn't the luxury environment they were expecting. The dreadful revelations do little to foster trust between the group and the recriminations are almost as dramatic as the terrifying surprises the island has in store for them. Without giving anything away, there are some horrifying encounters here, as they attempt to cross the inhospitable terrain in a bid to reach the main house and what has been described to them as a lavish party where everything will be explained.
The characters are all deviously flawed and the addictive plot twists and turns, becoming increasingly tense as the story heads inexorably towards the shocking conclusion.  I loved The Last Resort, it's a deliciously dark story and quite possibly the best fun I've had with a book for ages. Very highly recommended.

The Last Resort is published by Thomas & Mercer and can be purchased here.

About the Author
Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she's in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

Her serial killer thriller "The Deaths of December", featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.

Her next two releases, "The Last Resort" and "Substitute" are due out from Thomas & Mercer late 2020 and summer 2021 - both of these books are suspense thrillers with a technological element (a blend of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone).

Writing as SJI Holliday, she also has three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: "Black Wood", "Willow Walk" and "The Damselfly" - all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Also as SJI Holliday, her spooky mystery "The Lingering" was released in September 2018, followed by "Violet" - a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express - in September 2019. "Violet" has been optioned for film.