Title: The Last Resort
Author: Marissa Stapley
Published: December 3rd 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 3.5 stars
Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the ‘last resort’ offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.
Johanna and Ben have a marriage that looks perfect on the surface, but in reality they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly: after all, Colin is a workaholic and Shell always comes second to his job as an executive at a powerful mining company. But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony’s intensive program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all it seems – and neither are Miles and Grace themselves. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out?
As a deadly tropical storm descends on the coast, trapping the hosts and the guests on the resort, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and not one single person – or their marriage – will remain unchanged by what follows.
The scene is set from the front cover of The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley. With an exotic feel cult like retreat, a nest of secrets, lies and psychological behavior, this novel certainly sets an intriguing premise. Based on a tropical idyll in the Mayan Riviera, a number of couples battle it out to solve the complex problems navigating their lives, relationships and future happiness.
The Last Resort provides us with an eye opening glimpse into the complicated lives of those who come to stay and those who work at Harmony Resort. This is a couple’s retreat, where struggling partners can work to repair their difficult relationships, with the aid of an exotic setting and a celebrity counsellor. When the story opens, we meet one couple, Joanna and Ben. This couple has managed to maintain a false view of their marriage to outsiders. While it may appear that this couple’s relationship is perfect, as individuals they know very little about each other. On the other hand, Shell and Colin, another couple staying at the resort, rarely agree on anything. This constantly bickering couple have come to blows over Colin’s attitude to work and his inability to put his private life before his professional life. As the book progresses, a pertinent secret is aired, striking at the very heart of this couple. Harmony represents the last ditch attempt these couples have of burying the hatchet and making their relationships thrive instead of falter. But Harmony has secrets of its own and when these are aired, the impact will be felt by everyone. Adding to the tense atmosphere of The Last Resort is the impending storm that is slowly but surely making its way to Harmony. This powerful tropical storm has the power to transform the lives and relationships of these people – for the long term.
I was surprised when The Last Resort landed on my review desk. Marissa Stapley is an author I’ve not come across before, despite the fact that she has penned two acclaimed novels. At this late stage of the reading year it was a blessing to be introduced to a new writer. I would definitely be interested in exploring more of Stapley’s work in the near future.
The Last Resort is a women’s fiction title with mystery and suspense elements. The book takes an interesting format, as it deviates from the standard one thread style narrative. It begins with a scene of a man crying out for a ‘Jezebel’ on the crashing shores of a beach. We don’t know who the man is and what the reference to Jezebel could indicate. It is then followed by an article from Celebrity Scoop.com which outlines the impact of Hurricane Christine on the Mayan Riviera, resulting in the missing person’s case of celebrity counsellor Miles. An interview transcript follows these introductory pieces. The narrative is divided into days, rather chapter breaks. There are eight days covered in total, followed by an epilogue, which traces two months after the final events of the book. This varied narrative format extends upon the story, carefully revealing pertinent information about the dark story at hand. This multimedia format also worked to heighten the tension and suspense thread within the book.
The Last Resort read a little like a Liane Moriarty novel, it is an example of a domestic noir novel. In some respects I could see the similarities between The Last Resort and Moriarty’s most recent novel, Nine Perfect Strangers. While one of the characters in The Last Resort enabled me to draw comparisons to one key protagonist in Big Little Lies. I think this book will sit well with Moriarty fans, with its intriguing prose, shady characters, complicated relationships and resort style setting. For me, I detested so many of the characters that I just couldn’t develop a bond with any of them. In the end I didn’t really care if they salvaged their relationships, or repaired their downward spiralling lives.
Marissa Stapley tied up the ends of this novel carefully by the close of the book. It is quite the tumultuous journey, marked by secrets, lies, underhanded tactics, deception, abuse, betrayal, revelations, expose and sinister intent. It also gives the reader a bird’s eye view of couple’s counselling options which are available to those who can afford access to these high end celebrity retreats.
This one did get off to a sluggish start for me and the characters didn’t earn my sympathies at all. However, The Last Resort redeems itself with a good array of suspect characters, an intricate plot, a creative narrative format and a simmering atmosphere. Marissa Stapley’s third and latest novel may attract the attention of general contemporary fiction fans and those readers who don’t mind a touch of suspense noir.
The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley was published on 3rd December 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Last Resort, Marissa Stapley, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.