The Return
book review,  Books

Book Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

I took a break from all the historical fiction I’ve been reading and grabbed an ARC (thank you NetGalley) of Rachel Harrison’s upcoming release titled The Return.

This was one seriously creepy work of horror. Read on to see why this one had me rethinking some upcoming hotel choices.

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Book Review: The Return by Rachel HarrisonThe Return by Rachel Harrison
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on 2020
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Friendship
Pages: 304

"An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance. Julie is missing, and the missing don't often return.

But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she'll 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 the eccentric, remote Red Honey Inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong--she's emaciated, with sallow skin, chipped teeth and odd appetites.

In so many ways, Julie seems to be the friend they all loved and lost. But in others, she seems to be a stranger. When bad weather traps them inside the hotel, tensions flare. Elise begins to hear scratching within the walls, to see the slither of shadows cast by nothing. 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?"--



Oh my goodness, y’all, this book…this book was deliciously and vividly CREEPY. And humorous at times. And… touching.

Sound like an odd combination?
And it worked. What a page turner!

This is the story of four friends who meet up for a weekend away to reconnect after their friend Julie, missing and thought dead, turns up on her front porch on the two year anniversary of her disappearance.

Only Julie is…different.

The Return is told from the point of view of Elise, who is closest to Julie. With them at what is possibly the oddest and uncomfortably overdone and creepy hotel are their longtime friends, Mia and Molly. They all have their own personal issues to contend with – this is an interesting cast of characters – and a whole lot of history together.

The tale is part exploration of relationships, of shared pasts and how they bind us together (good and bad), and part pure horror. Harrison dangles scary bits and bobs at us through the first part of the story. Enough to make us question what Elise is seeing, maybe to wonder if she is paranoid or has more to worry about, and then she really dives into the horror and gore.

Her descriptions are vivid, the setting is delightfully weird and the atmosphere is dark. (Seriously – her descriptions of the hotel room decor are wonderfully weird and eclectic and create the perfect, albeit bizarre, setting.)

The story picks up speed in the second half and will have you checking windows and doors (and possibly put you off ground beef for a while.)

There are moments where The Return feels a little all over the place with description and Elise’s inner thoughts. And the friends talk, a LOT. And, fine, while the hotel makes a bizarro, creepy setting for the book, it’s just a bizarro, creepy setting for a girls’ weekend away, so while the setting clearly added to Elise’s anxiety (and to mine), I haven’t decided if this is clever or just a cheap out. That said, I’m rounding this up to four stars.


A fantastic debut from Rachel Harrison – I look forward to reading more from this author.

Give it a read and let me know what you think!

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