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 is about a group of old friends and new ones, going to a recluse residence to tide in the New Year in rural style. They’re expecting this to be like all their other New Year gatherings, when in actuality, it is going to be the trip that changes their lives forever. A history full of secrets and ill feeling comes to light, and ultimately, leads to a murder that puts suspicion on everyone and everything.
I’ll come right out and say I enjoyed this book, but I found it missed the mark with some elements. This is your typical murder mystery with a handful of potential suspects with mounting motives, that keeps the reader reeled in until the end, and is then left with trying to discern the entire read. Throughout the book there was a building suspense to who was killed, and what the potential motives were. It built steadily, which kept me fully engaged with the story.
This book was very atmospherical; I’m talking a mixture of winter wonderland and forest woodlands, in the cold dark nights of winter time in Scotland. As well, there were chapters in this book that focused on hunting animals, which if you’re an animal lover, will make your stomach turn. This really helped set the plot in the thriller-tone the plot was establishing and building toward.
The characters were tolerable. They were a bunch of stuck up spoilt adults who’d known each other from their entitled pompous years at university. So it is fair to say the characters were not exactly likable due to their selfish, self-centred personalities. And the characters I think that were intended to be likable, just weren’t. They were flooded out by the drama of the other characters, and they simply weren’t strong enough to make an impression due to this.
The story’s timeline altered between “before” and “after” the murder mystery, and was narrated through at least 5 perspectives; Miranda, Emma, Katie, Heather and Doug. Once I was able to finally get my head around who was who (honestly, I have no idea how I found this such a challenge, since the characters were so different), I liked these alternating perspectives. The characters were all different in personality, and through their personal narrations, it immersed me into their complex situations and behaviour. At times I felt the story concerning Heather and Doug was a bit irrelevant, but it was still interesting enough for that to be a minor issue. There were other characters, but the reader only knows about them through the eyes of the main 5.
There were sub-plots to build the main overarching plot, some of which I felt were easily predictable. Partly because they were, and partly because the author wished the reader to know such bits.
The climax was going well but ultimately it was underwhelming. Firstly, I predicted who was the guilty party and why they were, as I found it easy to work out. This was alright though, because I genuinely enjoyed the whys and whats surrounding it. However, a bit further toward the end of the story, I wish the rest of the climax had been expanded or explored more, rather than solely this: “big unexpected hero moment with no explanation of what went down because the screen fades to black… Epilogue.”
I didn’t like that. I would have liked to have known how it played out; what did the killer say after this? What did the other characters do? What were their reactions? None of this was explored. Instead, the book ran into the epilogue, which wasn’t very satisfying either and felt quite rushed. It tied up the story’s ends, but it didn’t fulfill everything I was interested in knowing. What happened to the character whose life was going to be over? This wasn’t wholly concluded, when it had been a big part of the mounting tension.
Overall, The Hunting Party is an interesting murder mystery story that may leave other readers slightly frustrated with its lack of completing the sub-plots that are created. My favourite thing about the book was its setting as it complimented the plot. I read the book within 3 days and I’ve decided to rate this 3.5 stars, due to the issues outlined above but also because the story is entertaining. It’s the kind of book you can snuggle up with on a cold day or night, and you’ll be itching to find out what’s going on. I would recommend it 🙂
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Published January 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, mystery-thriller