Hello and welcome to the first book review of 2021! Yes, I know it’s May and I claimed I would be reviewing books a few months ago BUT I annoyingly had to put this on the backburner in favour of channelling all my energy into finding a new job. Hashtag covid redundancies. Also, no I still haven’t found one but I live in hope. On with the show…
Now, technically this is a book I read back in 2020, but considering what a shitshow of a year that was, I’m sure you won’t begrudge me going back to relive some of the fictional worlds I occupied.
The Hunting Party is a book I purchased primarily because it was a crime thriller set in Scotland and I was due to be going on a trip to Scotland in March with one of my best friends. Obviously, the trip never took place (I don’t want to talk about it </3) but I still finished the book because not only am I a sucker for the Scottish wilderness, but also for a twisty-turny murder mystery.
The tagline hooked me too, as it gave me some Murder on the Orient Express and Agatha Christie vibes:
Everyone’s a suspect…
Already I was excited to get stuck in with the characters and learn why and how each one of them had something to gain or prove by committing a murder. Particularly as all members of the party are old friends who’ve headed to a lodge in the middle of nowhere to relive their old times over the New Year period.
However, things obviously don’t go as planned. By January 2nd, a body has been found by the caretaker of the lodge, and a huge snowstorm means that no one can leave the property.
(I absolutely love this trope in storytelling – being forcibly stuck somewhere by bad weather or some kind of unforeseen circumstance!! It’s convenient but so much fun, especially if there’s romance involved. Spoiler alert for this book, there’s not really.)
Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character which is really useful in getting a broader view of the group as a whole. Heather, the manager of the lodge, is also a narrator and as an outsider to the group, she brings some brilliant perspective. For instance, when the group arrive and enjoy a glass of champagne, Heather remarks that “even as they laughed and jostled and teased one another, I could sense something underneath it – something off”. This promises some inter-personal drama as well as murderous intent and, let’s be honest, we all love a bit of drama.
Despite the body being found on page 2, it isn’t until over three quarters of the way through the book that we find out who has been murdered. It’s easy to guess, but there are some things that throw little doubts as to the identity of the victim and this added mystery is a nice touch.
Foley’s technique of going back and forth in time between the discovery of the body and the first arrival of the group works really well, as it offers only the barest crumbs of clues before circling back around to another event, leaving plenty of room for guessing and speculating (if that’s your thing) as well as continually whetting the appetite for more.
In terms of characterisation, I actually enjoyed the fact that most of the main characters were deliberately unlikeable, at least in part. It made situations feel that much more realistic. Miranda is vain and has a bit of a nasty streak that is unpleasantly familiar if you, like me, happened to attend an all-girl’s school at some point in your life. Katie, her best friend, is irritatingly private and quietly unkind about almost everyone but somehow prompts pity from the reader from being so in Miranda’s shadow.
If you’re after intrigue, drama, interesting characters and some lovely scenery, I definitely recommend The Hunting Party!
Honourable mention: groundskeeper Doug for being instantly disparaging of the rich-bitch Londoners descending upon his peaceful eden: “if it weren’t for the guests, this place would be perfect.”