By Lucy Foley; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Days are warming and vacations are coming. It’s time to think about books for the beach, a cruise or a cross-country flight.
THE HUNTING PARTY ticks all the boxes for vacation reading: it’s entertaining but not intellectually straining. You can pick it up and put it down; it’s a great distraction from flight delays, bad food and crowded seats.
This novel is a classic manor house mystery modernized, doused in alcohol and spiced with sex and violence.
Seven friends who met in their first year at Oxford University have maintained a 10-year tradition of reuniting to celebrate New Year’s Eve. This year’s reunion is being held in a remote Scottish hunting lodge at the side of Loch Corrin with the Munro peak rising above. A cozy place to celebrate a new year, despite predictions of bad weather and the forbidding landscape.
The only other people around are Heather, the lodge manager; Doug, the game keeper; Iain, the handy man; and two Icelandic backpackers staying in a bunk house. (Heather promises the friends that the backpackers won’t intrude on their festivities.)
Over the years, much has changed among the friends. Plus-ones have joined the group: Mark’s girlfriend Emma and Nick’s American boyfriend Bo. Giles is a doctor and he and his wife Samira have brought along their six-month-old baby Priya.
Miranda, always the Golden Girl at university, seems a little tarnished. She hasn’t managed to get a job or even get pregnant. Her marriage to Julien seems tepid. Kate, always before the quiet, mousy one, has a trendy new haircut and new clothes. She’s been evading Miranda, claiming work demands.
Secrets, old and new, simmer behind the social masks. Old resentments and attractions flicker in the background.
“They seemed almost at times like actors, I (Heather) thought, making a great show of what a wonderful time they were having. They laughed a little too hard. They drank a great deal too much. And at the same time, despite all this evidence of merriment, they seemed to watch each other . . . I was struck by the thought that they did not seem completely comfortable in one another’s company.”
Then a guest goes missing and neither Mountain Rescue nor the police can get to the estate because of the weather. When Doug finds the missing guest and brings Heather to the body, it’s clear the guest is dead — and didn’t get that way by accident.
Author Lucy Foley alternates narrators and moves backward and forward in time as the story unfolds, heightening the suspense. The identity of the murder victim remains part of the mystery until the last few pages.
The setting is atmospheric but the characters aren’t people you’d want to spend days with at an isolated lodge. If you are a fan of Ruth Ware’s novels, such as THE IT GIRL, or Lucy Foley’s earlier novel, THE GUEST LIST, you’ll enjoy this book.
THE HUNTING PARTY was published in 2019.
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The Author: Lucy Foley (1986 – )
She worked at as a book editor at Headline Publishing Group and Hodder & Stoughton before a six-figure offer of an advance for two books launched her as a full-time writer. Her books include THE PARIS APARTMENT (2022), THE GUEST LIST (2020), LAST LETTER FROM ISTANBUL (2018), THE INVITATION (2016) and THE BOOK OF LOST AND FOUND (2015).
She studied English literature at University College London and Durham University and currently lives in London.