Saturday, February 27, 2021


THE GETAWAY by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, narrated by Kate Mara (Audible Original, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A weekend at the Lakewood Retreat is exactly what Chloe Powell needs. Freshly unemployed after her boss loses a re-election campaign, the former press secretary desperately wants a break from the bustle of Washington DC. A flier posted at her yoga studio leads her to the getaway, which looks amazing: organic meals, celebrity testimonials, and a serene private property within driving distance of the city.

It's so perfect, in fact, that Chloe's barely bothered by the intensely personal questions she's asked in her application, or the unnerving social experiments her enigmatic host, Sebastian, imposes on her once she arrives at his remote cabin. But when a mysterious new guest shows up, Chloe can no longer suppress her rising panic: This place is not at all what it seems.

Enjoying a run of audiobook crime, mystery, and thrillers on my lockdown and level-whatever socially distanced nature walks, I stumbled across this Audible Original a while back. The name Sarah Pekkanen rang a wee bell, though I hadn't heard of the #1 New York Times bestselling writing duo Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (A reminder that now matter how 'finger on the pulse' many people think some of us critics, awards judges, and crime 'aficionados' are, we're all only ever getting to a slice of what is out there. Some of us just devour bigger or more diverse slices than others, but still a slice.)

So I thought I'd give this short novella length Audible Original a go. Premise sounded intriguing, and I'd enjoyed narrator Kate Mara's performances onscreen (eg We Are Marshall) - note I believe there was an earlier audiobook version with a different narrator, but it was re-done with Mara. 

At two and a half hours in length I thought it may be a good 'one sitting' (ie one longer walk) listen too. 

After her boss loses an election campaign and her personal life has had a few bumps, Washington DC political staffer Chloe Powell desperately needs a break. She takes a chance on a yoga retreat that had come highly recommended online, only to instead find herself lured into something far more sinister. 

Overall this was a decent listen that didn't really blow me away, but kept me somewhat intrigued throughout. Hendricks and Pekkanen set the hook well so you want to know what happens, if Chloe can escape, and just what the truth is behind the Lakewood Retreat. Is charming-at-first host Sebastian a cult leader taking advantage of guests, or is something far more targeted going on? What really brought Kate, and other women before her, to Lakewood? A life-changing place, if not how they first hoped. 

Frankly I found that THE GETAWAY, smoothly narrated by Mara, required a decent dose of suspension of disbelief, as it was one of those domestic-style thrillers where the plot, tension, and suspense of the story may be at risk of falling apart if an otherwise smart and (seemingly) highly capable character or two didn't make some boneheaded and foolish choices. So the 'author hand' or architecture may be a little too obvious for keen crime readers. Having said that, THE GETAWAY still engendered a decent degree of tension, fear for the characters, and 'want to know/what will happen' suspense. 

So it fell into the okay/good rather than great zone for me. There were things I enjoyed about THE GETAWAY - and I could see flashes of what may have made Hendricks and Pekkanen's other collaborations so popular with American readers (I found out later Hendricks was Pekkanen's editor, then they teamed up on some domestic thrillers and hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list).

While some of the characters were frustrating at times in the choices they made, there was a decent degree of peril throughout THE GETAWAY, and things came together rather well and built to a strong conclusion in the closing stages; secrets and motivations revealed, and a good showdown where the women were able to utilise their smarts and capabilities rather than being cowed or easily duped. 

I'd read more from Hendricks and Pekkanen, while not rushing them to the top of the TBR. Worth a listen if you really love this type of sub-genre, or are looking for an intriguing tale to while away a couple of hours without stretching you too much. 

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed Kiwi lawyer who now lives in London and writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. Craig's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, McIlvanney Prize, is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His book SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020.

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