The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: 24th January 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 394
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers
Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…
For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.
They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.
Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.
Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?
“The Hunting Party” – and what a phenomenal title this is! – introduces us to a group of thirty – something close friends from Oxford University, who, after their degrees, stayed in touch and made it a tradition to spend time together. This time they gather over the New Year period at a secluded lodge in Scottish Highlands. On New Year’s Day though, the manager of the estate and the gamekeeper discover that one of the guests is missing and is then found dead. It quickly becomes clear that it was not an accident, that a murder has been committed. The place is closed off the world because of the snowstorms, the police can’t arrive and there is a killer among the guests – what’s going to happen now? Are they save?
I’ve been keeping seeing “The Hunting Party” everywhere, guys, everywhere, and well, yes, this whole hype made me desperate to read this book. Add to this the brilliant, chilling premise and I thought, yes, it’s going to be THIS read. Yes, I’m rather careful with books being advertised in such a way because I am always scared that they’re not going to live up to my expectations, as I think that you can expect something really amazing from them but as lately I’ve been rather lucky and so I started to read this book without any trepidation.
And I kept reading, kept reading and reading, finished the book and thought, and? Is this it? Where is the wow? Sadly, it didn’t take me by surprise. Sadly, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I’m going to. There were all the signals it could be a brilliant read. The setting for example, could you imagine a better setting for a psychological thriller than this remote and desolate exclusive hunting lodge, snowed in, next to a loch somewhere deep in Scottish Highlands? Brilliant, no? Also the way it was written, starting with the information that one of the guest has been found murdered, and then going back and forth over the few days revealing all the facts, interactions and dynamics between the characters should make it tense and on the edge, don’t you think? But then came the characters, and as this story was very character – driven they were the make or break of the book. For me, unfortunately, the break. In the end I simply couldn’t care less who’s been murdered and why because all of them somehow deserved this fate and they simply wasn’t worth saving. We have Emma, a relative newbie to the group and hence desperate to prove that she deserves to be their friend, to fit in, Mark’s girlfriend, and who has organized the trip this time. Mark turns out to be a little on the aggressive side – not that he’s aggressive towards Emma but there is this dark side to him. Miranda is the most beautiful, the most attention seeking, the most popular among the group, though she’s also probably the most spoiled and unpleasant but together with Julian, the good looking and successful one they seem to make the perfect power couple. Samira and Giles are married and arrive with their 6 – months – old daughter Priya, though you can’t tell more about them, to be honest, except that they seem to not coping too well with being newly parents. Nick has been in a long – term relationship with Bo, who has a history of being a drug – addict. And the only single among them, the power London lawyer Katie, who’s hiding a secret and has been Miranda’s best friend since schooldays, but recently they don’t see each other too often. There is also the addiction of the other guest at the lodge, two Icelanders, and of course we have Heather, the manager, with her own dramas and traumas, and Doug, the gamekeeper, an ex – marine, suffering from PTSD. Interesting group, no? Well, not so. And between the partying, hunting, drinking and drugs it quickly becomes clear that perhaps they aren’t as close – knit as we were supposed to think, and more and more secrets and lies come to light. Until the day when one of the guest is found dead. Murdered.
I am very, very sad that this story didn’t deliver for me. The pace of the book was slowed down by the very detailed descriptions of the lodge, the place, the food and clothes which – of course very vivid and almost poetically written – didn’t add much to the main plot. Also, maybe because of the writing style, I found it a little disengaging and cold. Whilst I absolutely loved the setting and the brilliantly captured, chilling atmosphere it was still too little to save the book for me, to make me emotionally involved. This dual timeline was also brilliantly written by the author, she didn’t give too much and yet tried to whet my appetite to find out what has happened, and it would work if it weren’t for this group of those petty characters. However, “The Hunting Party” was brilliantly observant. The author explores the dynamics of friendship, digs deep into them, revealing what’s really hidden under the surface – all the murky, dark secrets and lies. Lucy Folley has an incredible talent to capture all the details and nuances and the chilling atmosphere full of uncertainty and insecurity. So if you’re into reading about dysfunctional group of characters, into some mystery and psychological games this is a book for you.