The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Publisher – HarperCollins

Price - £4.99 Kindle £12.99 Hardcover

Published – Out Now

I would like to thank the publisher for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect

…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.

We all have a certain group of friends who we have known from certain times of a lives who we would class as our inner circle.  They knew us when we grew up before we learned to act like adults.  They’re the group we can seamlessly shift into our old roles of joker, leader, confidant, wingman etc and know us better than anyone else. But at the same time there is that other side of friendship where we still meet up because of that past bond but our lives are now going in very different directions and as the years pass are we really the same person as we were back in the day…are we actually still friends? This intriguing novel from Lucy Foley uses this theme to build a murder mystery where each friend would no doubt say they would die for you but perhaps one guest has decided to take them at their word.

A gang of Oxford graduates and their partners have made it an annual tradition to have a New Year’s year gathering. Now in their thirties the group is starting to move from being partying twentysomethings who would go to Ibiza for debauchery to now a remote Scottish Hunting Lodge for food, drinking and this time hunting. We have the star couple Julien and Miranda; the first couple to have a baby in Samira and Giles; the loyal best friends Mark and Emma plus Nick and his partner Bo; and finally, Katie who is Miranda’s best friend who has recently started to become the most detached. Emma has made it her mission to make this the best New year’s ever…and like with Walford’s Christmas that turns out to be an instant curse.

The initial horrors of no wi-fi; extreme bad weather and taciturn staff plus creepy Icelandic tourists start to immediately place the group on edge but slowly the dynamics of this group start to increase the tensions and there is no where people can really get away from each other when the snow begins to fall.  The book uses an intriguing concept of not just a whodunnit but who got dun?  We know a little after New Year’s Eve the manager of the lodge Heather finds a body in the snow, but the identity of the guest is not immediately revealed. In a series of flashbacks/flashforwards we go into the principle perspectives of Miranda, Katie and Emma plus the Lodge staff of Heather and her mysterious gamekeeper Doug to try and establish who has died and who was the killer and why?

What I really enjoyed in this book was that sense of friendships that may be past their sell by date. On the one hand you can see how this group all got together and particularly around Miranda why this group got around her orbit she is a fascinating magnetic but sometimes cruel and careless personality.  But you also can see how the groups change when people settle down in new relationships; battle addictions and change career paths. On the face of it these bright young things from Oxford would look to have loads in common still in their ultra-professional middle-class lives but is that enough? Being in each character’s head allows us to see their inner and outer personas to the world (plus what they really think of each other) and slowly the history of the group plus the secrets they’re all less willing to share with one another get explained increasing the tension as eventually others will find out the truth.  The reader is being propelled along via a mix of red herrings and startling revelations to construct what actually happened that early New Year’s Day. Our first impressions of who is the hero and villain in this group shift (and shift again) as we find about where they are all now in relation to each other.  This creates a great deal of uncertainty which for any good thriller does ramp the tension as we also want to find out which secret led to murder.

As such I think there may be a view as you near the end that the various plots are kept spinning in the air just perhaps a little too long. I really enjoyed the additional revelations of the lives of Heather and Doug who all have their reasons for choosing this remote workplace, but I never felt the book really fully bonded their stories with the main group.  The main mystery I think makes this well worth reading but the secondary plot I think isn’t fully developed enough to make it feel like it compliments the story more that it gets in the way of the tense finale to come. But I do think Foley is very good at making each of these characters stand out as personalities in their own right and their life stories are fascinating. It may just be an impatience to finally get to the big reveal I was feeling but at the same time I really did want to know what other secrets this Lodge had to offer.

Overall, I think if you enjoy a thriller that explores the dark side of friendship then I think this fast-paced thriller would be an extremely entertaining read. But beware you may think twice the next time your oldest friends invite you to a weekend away…