Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing for the ARC of The Return in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.
I have honestly never read a horror novel before in my life, because I am a huge scaredy cat. I didn’t even realize it was a scary book until one creepy thing happened…and then another … and then I looked up the book on GoodReads and said OH, wow, ok. I turned all the lights in the house on and kept reading.
Here is the description from Amazon.com:
Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return—except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.
Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong—she’s emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who—or what—is she?
The plot itself is an excellent idea: What happened to Julie? Is this weekend getaway going to turn into the house of horrors? In short: yes. The remaining three friends each mourn Julie in their own way and are shocked when she comes back. The women plan a getaway to an eccentric hotel in the Catskills, and from there start to unravel the mystery of what happened to Julie.
“Sallow skin and odd appetites” seems like a very nice way of describing Julie, per the back cover. She looks like a corpse, her teeth are rotten, and the women become immediately concerned. At the start of the book I found it hard to keep them apart in my mind – Molly and Mae and Elise, with Elise being the main character. They all speak in very young sounding slang as well, using words such as ‘peace’ and ‘deuces’ and saying ‘love you’ at least 50 times.
I think too much time was spent with the women just gossiping behind Julie’s back about her. I either was skimming gossip or feeling horrified after reading something with very little in between. There were a few long diversions from the main storyline that only contributed to the related character’s back story, but ultimately didn’t help the plot. For example: one about Elise entering a married lover’s house helped show that she could be a little nuts, although it was pages long and totally unrelated to the story in the hotel.
Speaking of length, I felt like 40 page long chapters couldn’t hold my attention very well for a novel that took place mainly over the course of a weekend.
I also feel like setting can be important in suspense and horror novels. The hotel was definitely eccentric, isolated, and ran by an odd duck, but there was nothing inherently spooky or scary about the place. A lot of the horror portrayed was in Elise’s mind, at least until some real terror was brought into the place. I think I would have been more scared by something inherently wrong with the hotel itself.
Finding out what happened to Julie does occur at the end of the book. While reading I was definitely pretty observant of shadows and windows in my house (as I said, easily scared), but at the same time thought the climactic reveal at the end sounded a little corny.
I think I would recommend this as like an “intro to horror” novel. It is perfect for people who want to be *a little* scared, although hardcore horror readers may not be as thrilled. I would have no problem recommending the book to anyone curious though! The Return releases 3/24/20 and I once again want to thank Berkley for the book!!