Combining satisfying and extremely unsettling psychological suspense with just the right touch of supernatural horror and a compelling and thoughtful new adult story centered around the power, emotion, and limitations of female friendship, The Return is an intense read that will appeal to fans of Nic Joseph and Amy Lukavics.
Author Harrison has combined these three fears into a story that will evoke pity even as the reader experiences the trio’s horror and revulsion ... Though the climax of the book is indeed terrifying, it only encompasses 40 of a 296-page novel. There’s a great deal of flashback, some of which isn’t directly linked to Julie’s disappearance but is more a character study of Elise and explaining her behavior. The chapters are extremely long, an average of 30 pages each. The switching of tenses from past to present may also cause the reader some confused in the narrative.
This is a curious book. Harrison puts much effort into telling readers just who her characters are psychologically, which is mostly compelling. However, Elise in particular is an inconsistent figure. That may be less of Harrison’s fault and more about the way characters in similar novels act against their own best interest, unwilling to see evil for what it is. The supernatural elements are piled on heavily at the end, and Harrison is not interested in really explaining the source of Julie’s transformation. There are some eerie scenes, and the Red Honey Hotel is somehow both menacing and comical ... It would miss the mark to categorize this as a horror novel; it is much more about a particular set of friends who experience horror. The four share a kind of banter or repartee that seems a bit young for them, and each of them is definitely of a type. They are love ’em or hate ’em kinds of characters ... offers readers some promising ideas and genuine scares, but ultimately is not as cohesive as it could be. Still, it marks of the debut of a writer with a lot of potential.
Harrison skillfully portrays the bond between the four longtime friends, complete with secrets and tension, but always against a background of palpable affection ... Harrison successfully sustains a low, visceral dread throughout that eventually builds to a shocking crescendo, and whispers of The Shining haunt the Red Honey Inn’s gloriously gaudy halls. Patient readers who appreciate a slow burn with an explosive payoff will be rewarded. This girls’ trip has teeth ... A stylish and well-crafted horror debut.