Four friends. One luxury getaway. The perfect murder.
French Alps, 1998
Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.
20 years later
Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.
Someone knows what really happened that day.
And somebody will pay.
Set in the atmospheric resort of La Madiere in the French Alps, the novel alternates between 1998, when two brothers go missing whilst on a guided off-piste run, and 2018, when two couples arrive at a luxurious ski chalet for a few days of soft powder and après-ski networking. Wealthy businessman Hugo desperately needs to get boorish Simon to invest in his travel company – even if that means a week of schmoozing on the slopes. Hugo’s wife Ria, meanwhile, is questioning the wisdom of her marriage – and of choosing La Madiere, a place with too many echoes of a past she’d rather forget.
Along with Simon’s wife Cass, chalet girl Milly and manager Matt, and chalet owner Cameron, Hugo, Simon and Ria’s plans are thrown into disarray when a body is pulled from the snow – a body that may well be connected to the high-profile tragedy of the Cassiobury brothers twenty years before. It swiftly becomes apparent that there may be those amongst Hugo & Ria’s group who know more about the Cassiobury disappearance than they are letting on – and it isn’t long before further bodies start piling up.
As with One by One, the claustrophobic atmosphere of isolated mountains is used to great effect in The Chalet as the isolation of luxury ski lodge becomes a threat to the characters seeking shelter within it. Catherine Cooper has perfectly captured both the beauty and the danger of the mountains, and of the way that softly powdered snowfall can rapidly develop into a whirling blizzard. It’s wonderfully ominous and really helps set the tone for the action that follows.
I did struggle to associate with the characters in The Chalet. With the exception of baby Inigo, they’re a fairly horrible bunch with few redeeming features. Hugo, whilst shy and reserved, was unpleasantly misogynistic at some points whilst his wife Ria came across as shallow and self-absorbed – spending time in their heads was quite tough at times. Personally I do tend to prefer a novel where at least one of the characters is, if not nice, at least easier to empathise with – and I did find that almost impossible here. However, the blistering pace of events and the grim satisfaction that came with seeing some of these unpleasant people get their much-needed comeuppance did help to offset this disconnect!
And the pace really is blistering once the main premise and characters have been established. Cooper utilises the dual timeline to great effect to keep the plot moving forwards and the pages turning and, after a slightly slow start, the tension just keeps building until the explosive conclusions when all the secrets are revealed and the connections between the two groups of skiers becomes apparent.
Overall The Chalet is a fast-paced page-turner ideal for fans of Ruth Ware, B. Louise Candlish, and J P Delaney. It’s a pacy, atmospheric and thrilling read that, if you’re okay with unlikeable characters, makes for a great book to curl up with during these cold, dark nights!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher and Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 27 November so do take a look at the other stops for more reviews and content!
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