When I received this book in the mail for review, I was immediately hooked after reading the premise; a tropical couples retreat headed for impending doom when a hurricane is about to hit? Count me in! As you know, I love reading about marriages (especially those that are imploding) and the fact that this book delves into relationships while a mystery develops in the background is music to my ears. I read The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley in a few sittings over the course of three days, breezing through the short and punchy chapters.
We land in Mexico along with a few couples looking to fix their marriage, arriving at a high-end couples resort and therapy program. Everyone is beautiful and rich, but no one’s happy in their marriage, not even the couple who runs the resort, famous therapists Grace and Miles. Even before the program begins it’s clear there are some strange things going on; the guests’ suitcases are searched and items confiscated, there is no internet or phone usage permitted, and Miles is just a little too handsy with the unhappy wives who come to him for advice. Not surprisingly everyone is harbouring a deep dark secret, some more devastating than others. But as all thrillers seem to go these days, we the reader must be patient in discovering what everyone’s hiding, even when reading a first-person perspective (do I sound bitter? Perhaps I am; enough with the unreliable narrators already!).
Many of these secrets are predictable, but I think Stapley did this on purpose. The publisher has made a strange decision in which the summary blurb of the book reveals something that doesn’t happen until the last third of the novel. It’s not a common marketing strategy, but again it leads me to the belief that the author is less focused on the ‘what’ and more focused on the ‘why’. Does it matter who did what to who? Not really, because this novel isn’t a straightforward thriller, it’s attempting to explain why women find themselves in unhealthy relationships. Who is to blame? Why does history keep repeating itself? What is required of a victim to escape dangerous circumstances?
Even though I anticipated what was going to happen, I was still propelled through the pages in an effort to learn more about the characters and what drove them. And because I’m a sap for a happy ending, I really wanted the couples we meet to find their way back to each other. Although some goodreads reviewers complained the plot was unbelievable, I disagree completely. There’s some twisted things going on in these characters’ backstories, but all rang true to me. There’s a clear focus on the subjugation of women which is a timely point to be making, and with all the #metoo stories coming out these days, I find nothing is too far-fetched or unbelievable now.
The addition of an impending hurricane is what turns this book into a modern-day suspense novel. If left out of the story, Stapley would have had more time to focus on developing the characters, but then I don’t think I would have devoured this story so eagerly. All the problems coming together at once is what gave me the ‘thrill’ side of this thriller. And although this is a minor aspect to the story, I found the descriptions of the weather and landscape seamlessly transported me to the tropical setting of the story. The setting and atmosphere was so expertly done I could easily imagine myself sitting on a patio right beside these characters, admiring the palm trees and lapping waves of the beachfront. So if you’re stuck at home with no vacation days in sight, pick up The Last Resort, it’s the next best thing to an actual heat wave.