The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.
Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.
To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both her and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.
What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?
Even though I've had 'Undercurrent', another psychological thriller by J.A. Baker in my library for quite some time, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't yet found the time to read it. However, now that I've finished reading 'Her Dark Retreat', I've immediately bumped that book up my TBR pile. I just can't wait to have another taste of this author's crisp, clear, evocative writing.
'Her Dark Retreat' kicks off with a disturbing chapter written from the p.o.v. of someone trapped in some dark narrow space. This person is terrified, injured and disorientated and does not know what happened or how they ended up entombed in this place. Who is this person? Where is this place? Who put them there? And why? So many questions invaded my mind just by reading this claustrophobic first chapter.
The main story revolves around Peggy and Alec, a married couple who live in an old cottage perched high up on a clifftop overlooking the North Sea. Peggy is an author who works from home and Alec is a teacher. It's immediately evident that the marriage is not a happy one and that both Peggy and Alec are damaged individuals who have endured difficult childhoods. Alec has suffered terribly at the hands of his father and Peggy is not even on speaking terms with her mother and sister. Peggy has suffered numerous miscarriages and this together with her mood swings and the inability to move on from the past is little by little driving the couple apart. Peggy bears horrendous scars on her face which make her feel self-conscious and reluctant to go outside and face other people. How did she get those facial scars? Why is she always on edge? What does her estranged mother want from her? Why is she pestering her, insisting on talking to her? What does she want to warn her about?
Apart from chapters written from the p.o.v. of Peggy and Alec, we have others written from that of Peggy's mother, Audrey who's determined to get her daughter to listen to her, and of another lady, Maude. Maude is an old lady living in a nearby home. She suffers from dementia and everyone thinks that what she says is utter nonsense, the produce of her confused, fogged mind. But Maude has seen something terrible... Maude knows something no one else knows... A crime has been made and she's the only witness. What did Maude see? What does she know?
Okay, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The author's writing is just superb making the whole experience so much more realistic, atmospheric and enjoyable. I found myself utterly engrossed in the story eating away at the pages, wanting to know how it will all end.
All characters are intriguing, realistic, suspicious and harbour secrets. No one can be trusted and not everything is as it seems. Maude was my favourite character in this novel. I just loved her. The author did a great job in portraying this poor sweet woman's struggle with dementia, her constant internal battle to clarify her thoughts, her frustrations at not being believed or understood. Her desperate attempt to expose a dark secret.
I utterly loved the setting of the novel. It's so refreshing to have a story that is not set in some crowded city choked by traffic. The solitary cottage perched high up on a cliff top, overlooking the vast North Sea would just be the ideal getaway holiday home, but rumours about its dark past and being built so dangerously near to the edge and exposed to the elements, this house exudes a strong sense of solitude, menace and peril. The harsh, dark, unforgiving sea constantly crashing against the cliffs far below the cottage and the strong wind continuously slapping and battering the cottage as if it were trying to blow it off the cliff, are a constant throughout the book. The sea and the wind are so vividly described by the author that it feels as if they are another two living characters in the novel. As I was reading I could almost feel the cold rush of the sea on my face and the strong wind tugging at my clothes.
Someone has done a terrible thing, a person has gone missing, an old confused lady has seen something. Will the truth ever come out?
Well I think I've said more than enough about this brilliant atmospheric read for you to understand how much I enjoyed it. This was my first J.A. Baker book and it will most definitely not be my last. Highly recommended. With thanks to Bloodhound Books for an ARC of this fabulous book.
J.A.BAKER was born and brought up in the North East of England and has had a love of language for as long as she can remember.
After gaining an MA in Education & Applied Linguistics with the Open University, she found herself with spare time and embarked on doing something she always wanted to do – write a novel.
She has a love of local history and genealogy and enjoys reading many genres of books but is an addict of psychological thrillers.
In December 2016 she was signed by Bloodhound Books who published Undercurrent. J.A.
Her second novel, Her Dark Retreat was published in October 2017. J. A. Baker's third book, The Other Mother is due out on 5th December 2017.
She has four grown-up children and a grandchild and lives in a village near Darlington with her husband and madcap dog.
You find out more about J.A.Baker by visiting her website at