- Book: The Hunting Party
- Location: Inverness-shire
- Author: Lucy Foley
A party of nine old friends (an awkward number whatever the circumstances), many of whom were first acquainted in Oxford University, head up North to Loch Corrin Lodge in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautifully stark and oftentimes hostile terrain, nestled in the shadow of a Munro. The lodge has had a modernist makeover, with plenty of floor to ceiling glass, offering spectacular views. However, at night the residents are backlit and their activities are on show for anyone minded to peer in… there is an unsettling frisson that soon starts to percolate.
On site are the local staff, Heather and Doug, the gruff, Chatterley-esque gamekeeper (a third member of staff lives off site). There are two further guests (who are perceived by the inimitable nine as interlopers) from Iceland, who by chance managed to confirm a booking through miscommunication in the office. They are properly geared up for wintry weather, unlike the rather effete southern group, who have arrived in their Barbours, ready for a stab at hunting deer. Killing, of course, for the novice engenders a change to personality and the group dynamics are already a bit fraught. The drip, drip of secrets and machinations (just like the dripping blood from a felled deer), fuelled by Dom Perignon and narcotics (and sex in the sauna) ensure a febrile state amongst the party. Miranda, the stellar character of the group is an ace manipulator and underminer but also a powerful woman. A game of truth or dare heightens the pathos…
There are secrets festering and backstories ripening as the narrative progresses. We know early on that someone has been found dead but we do not know who. About halfway through we find out the sex of the body.
Ratcheting the suspense is really skilfully done, part of the story is set a couple of days in the run-up to New Year 2019, then forward to 2 January 2019 when the body is discovered. However, due to the inclement weather conditions, the police cannot attend so Heather and Doug have to take the initiative and manage the murder scene. We do however by this stage in the storytelling also discover the sex of the killer.
This is a very pacy thriller that revels in hidden secrets and character machinations. It bowls along as more and more factors are fed in. The ending is perhaps a little loosely woven but that is a minor quibble. It is a very gripping read.
The setting feels cloying, the dark mountains envelop the lodge and the author brings the snowy Scottish environs to brooding life. This is the author’s debut crime novel “inspired by a particularly remote part of Scotland that fired her imagination”. She has previously written three historical novels. Recommended.