EVERYONE’S INVITED. EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.
The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
Not an accident – a murder among friends.
I have this thing about making sure my first book of any year is a good one – some strange superstition that the first book will, somehow, be a portent for the reading year to come. If that is the case then 2019 is going to be a great year because The Hunting Party, which I started on the morning of 01 January and breathlessly finished two days later, was just fantastic!
Set at a luxury hunting lodge in the remote Scottish highlands, the book follows nine university friends, back together for their annual New Year celebrations. Beautiful, effervescent Miranda is the life and soul of any party – but at 33, desperate to start a family and with no meaningful career, is there a sadness lying behind her shimmer? Miranda’s handsome husband Julian meanwhile, is hiding more than just one secret, whilst his best friend Mark seems more volatile than usual. For new parents Samira and Giles, this trip will be their first with baby Priya – as they struggle to adapt to life with a baby, do they really have that much in common with their old friends? Old tensions simmer beneath the surface of golden couple Nick and Bo, whilst career girl Katie seems even more quiet than usual. And what of Emma, organiser of the trip but forever the outsider. Will she really ever fit in with the rest of the group? For Doug and Heather, employees at the lodge who are keeping their own secrets, these are just another group of monied guests seeking adventure. But as the snow falls around them, isolating the lodge from civilisation, tensions rise and old friendships fracture and, on New Years morning, a body is found lying in the snow.
I was utterly gripped by this book! From the start I found the characters utterly fascinating – there’s something so gloriously dysfunctional about them all. With a few exceptions, these are the sort of people I would utterly detest in real life – unknowing in their privilege, and unbearably nasty to anyone who doesn’t fit in. Yet Foley has done a fabulous job of getting beneath the surface glitz and showing the hidden fractures and vulnerabilities that lie behind each person’s facade. I genuinely came to sympathise with some of them and had a dark fascination with the rest.
To say too much about the plot would be to spoil the book but this really is a brilliantly plotted thriller. By using multiple voices and a dual timeline taking place both before and after the murder, Foley managed to keep me guessing right to the very end – even the identity of the victim isn’t revealed until the final few chapters! There’s a lot going on in the 400 pages with a possible serial killer, suspicious activity on the estate, and the gamekeeper’s dark past all jostling for attention amidst the secrets and lies of the guests. But Foley keeps everything neat and I never felt like the plot was running away from me – quite a feat when there are so many characters and subplots.
Combining an Agatha Christie ‘country house murder’ vibe with a modern ‘rich people problems’ twist, The Hunting Party is a fantastic crime thriller packed with twists and turns and full of that elusive page-turning quality. If 2019 continues with books of this quality, then it will be a good year indeed!
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is published by HarperCollins and is available now as an ebook, and published in hardback on 24 January 2019, from all good booksellers including Hive, Waterstones, and Amazon. My thanks go to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an eproof of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.