- Book: The Chalet
- Location: French Alps
- Author: Catherine Cooper
The book opens dramatically with two men being escorted down le couloir in La Madière, a fairly taxing black run, in the middle of a snowstorm. Their ski teacher is a rather sardonic person, who has clearly had their fill of posh punters who claim skiing expertise when in fact they are little more than intermediate (beginner, even) level. Part way down the challenging terrain, now joined by a second ski teacher, the skiing guests disappear, a frightening situation. This was in 1998. Only one of the men returns to the resort in tact.
Now in January 2020, Ria is ensconced with her husband Hugo in a luxurious chalet in La Madière, with views to die for and a hot tub for that extra je ne sais quoi. Millie is the chalet hostess and is on hand to cater to their (almost) every 5* whim, plying them with champagne, canapés and wonderful meals. Simon has joined the couple with his wife Cass and baby in tow; he is a potential investor in Hugo’s travel company. It is an edgy group of people. The owner of the chalet drops in to boast about his empire of buildings, dotted across the resort and how they are a worthy and potentially lucrative match for Hugo’s upmarket portfolio.
The weather is coming in and the tensions in the chalet rise. The author slaloms her way from 1998, making links with the party in the chalet in 2020 and the story makes coherent progression. There are quite some secrets to discover! The writing style is certainly very readable. Part way through, there is reference to a child living in poor and squalid circumstances, which was an aid to plot development – I wasn’t sure it quite worked for me. It all comes together in the end and the author knows how to pen a sufficiently convincing thriller that grips the reader. I was certainly gripped.
The author lives in France, she has been a frequent visitor to the Alps, and clearly has experience of the kinds of people who drop in for a week or two to blag, drink, ski and party. She delights in creating objectionable characters who have money and a well-developed sense of entitlement – the sport after all is well known for attracting a higher percentage of braying punters who are self referring and rude (I can also attest there are also lovely people in ski resorts, don’t be put off by this lot!).