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Thriller set in fictional Le Rocher, FRENCH ALPS

20th January 2021

Shiver by Allie Reynolds, thriller set in fictional Le Rocher, French Alps.

Thriller set in fictional Le Rocher, FRENCH ALPS

This is publisher Headline’s lead debut for 2021.

Author Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder who spent 5 years in the mountains, competing in the British Championships and was once in the UK top ten. She therefore has a good insight into the lives of highly competitive people and into the sport.

The book is divided into chapters that are “Now” and “Ten Years Ago” and they more or less alternate. In the Now, a group of five people is arriving – just before the season is due to start – at the Panorama Building, glacier du Diable. These are erstwhile friends and colleagues, based in the very same ski resort, who were intimate in all sorts of ways back then (10 years ago), and now have somehow allowed themselves to be lured to this basic retreat high up in the mountains. They have unfinished business from their time together, secrets galore and someone has managed to corral them to find out what happened to Saskia, the sixth member of the group. It is believed she died under very dubious circumstances. Was she killed and if so who killed her?

The story largely unfolds from Milla’s point of view and she soon realises that she and her ‘friends’ have been brought together for nefarious purposes; but it is unclear who exactly has organised this rendezvous. Milla understood herself to have been invited by Curtis, Saskia’s brother; another member of the group thinks she – Milla – invited the participants. Right from the off there are games to be played, and not only of the party variety. Their phones soon go missing, the computers are no longer where they were left and the utilities have a life of their own (it’s pretty dark when the lights unexpectedly go out). Their contact with the outside world is now cut. Someone is turning the thumb screws and they have to determine if that someone is in their midst, or whether there is a person somewhere out there holding the cards? Could it even be Saskia, back – somehow – from the dead? The mind games keep on coming.

Go back 10 years and Milla had a fractious relationship with Saskia, her arch nemesis, a venal and manipulative woman who would seemingly go to any lengths to win a snowboarding competition. Milla suffers from survivor’s guilt and suspects others may point the finger at her.

The author has chosen a good environment to set her thriller – snowsports in the mountains can be a dangerous undertaking and glacier snow boarding can be the ultimate scary thrill (one false move and the crevasses on the glacier will swallow you). Avalanches, inclement weather and inhospitable terrain all add real edge to the story. Imagine somewhere like Val d’Isère or Tignes, factor in terrible weather conditions, add a group of highly competitive snowboarders – stoked for the off – throw in a few bar brawls and punch ups, and this all could make for a heady mix and a thrilling story.

For me it didn’t totally work as a cohesive novel. The author writes ‘tension’ extremely well. The characters, however, as they raced back and forth in the building and on the slopes, are more or less an amorphous and pretty ghastly bunch who, for much of the book, felt interchangeable – that was perhaps the author’s intention? There were too many rhetorical questions occupying Milla’s mind, a construct to drive the story along and keep tension bubbling: could Curtis and Brent be in this together? Is Dale right?  Why would Brent know? Did he see Curtis kill her? And so on…And then who slept with whom and when? I cared little for them as individuals or what they got up to. I felt overall that the storyline just needed a tighter editing hand because there is actually a very good storyline there that needed enabling to really shine.

If you are a fan of snowboarding then then this will be a great read. Indeed, if you know little or nothing about the sport, you will find out about McTwists, Pipes, nine hundreds and seven twenties; you will discover what a Haakon flip is and, scarily, the merits of a Crippler.

I think Burton™, one of the big companies catering for the snowboarding community in terms of gear, will be very pleased by the number of mentions they get in the first half of the novel 😉. It rather felt like product placement, diluted with the odd reference to Salomon, Calvin Klein, Roxy and Oakley, all part of the snowboarding experience.

Reading this thriller is probably the only way during the Covid Pandemic that we can access the slopes this year (Winter 2020/21). It has all the twists and turns of a slalom.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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