Title: The Hunting Party
Author: Lucy Foley
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
The Hunting Party is the author’s first crime novel and is described as combining elements of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (HarperCollins) and The Secret History (Penguin) by Donna Tartt.
The novel follows a a tight-knit group of Oxford university alumni as they celebrate New Year’s Eve in the wilderness of the Loch Corrin Estate in Scotland. A HarperFiction spokesperson said: “In these wild, white climes the group reminisce, go deer stalking, and hide friendship-destroying secrets, secrets that set a razor-sharp sequence of events in motion, culminating with a broken body in the snow.”
This is an addictive, atmospheric thriller which, for me, is the perfect blend of ‘whodunnit’ and character-focused narrative.
The people in this novel are not, overall, likeable. Focusing on a group of nine – four couples and one single lady – who have come up to Scotland to spend New Years’ together, we soon realise they have various secrets and a lot of history stretching back to childhood and university days at Cambridge. Many of them are pretty awful people – or annoyingly entitled and snobby at best – and unapologetically so. Lucy Foley ensures that they’re so convincing, I can imagine them as real people and it only makes the story more addictive. Not everyone, of course, but even the people you think are blameless turn out to have their faults. Put them all together with their secrets in a remote Scottish estate, over the drug and alcohol fuelled New Year period, and you’re bound to run into some trouble. Which, of course, they do…
As mentioned in the synopsis, this is definitely remniscent of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None‘ and also Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History‘, which is actually one of my favourite novels ever. The way the story is told means that, even though you find out right from the beginning that one of the females has died, you’re not quite sure who – the story flicks between ‘before’, in the run up to New Years’ Eve when tensions in the group steadily mount, and ‘after’, when there are lots of references to the group and ‘her’ but we’re not sure who has acrtually been killed. It’s a clever way to keep us guessing, and because we learn of so many arguments and problems among the nine people, it maintains a real sense of mystery throughout the novel. The writing is utterly absorbing and the story is tightly woven; I seriously couldn’t put it down and would happily have kept on reading forever! One of the elements regarding one character’s history seemed a little over the top perhaps, but apart from that very small niggle it was, for me, just perfection!
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