4 star

Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

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?

I loved the last Lucy Foley so much, I simply had to see what this other one was about. Unfortunately it really fell short of my expectations. It was still pretty good, and I did enjoy it overall, but I feel like it didn’t quite have the same impact on me as The Guest List did. But it’s also one of those weird situations where I’m not sure if I objectively feel like its worse, or if it’s just in comparison.

The Hunting Party is a story of old friends who went to Oxford together, gathering for their yearly New Years trip. This time they have chosen a idyllic estate in the Scottish Highlands, which is all but great until they get (predictably) snowed in by a large blizzard. In total isolation, tensions mount and old grudges surface. We find out a body has also been found and it doesn’t look like an accident. With only so many suspects, just who was it who was responsible?

In such a closed room scenario, the characters are of course of utmost importance. Set up as a group of around 12 friends, we rotate through a couple of main characters’ POVs as we go through the story. Overall the characters were interesting and had their own backstories, and were generally well crafted. There was also good diversity and intricate relationships that would be expected for such a tight-knit group, and in that sense it was very realistic. The couples and their names and stories were hard to keep track of at first, but I found myself settling in a couple of chapters in.

The suspense was also great. It was a murder mystery but read kind of like a psychological thriller. This is especially effective in closed room scenarios, I find. The style is actually reminiscent of Shari Lapena for me, in the sense that the chapters are fairly short and there’s the ominous short sentences that are used for dramatic effect. Overall I’d say that it is a more refined style than Lapena, it reads much more naturally and is more seamlessly incorporated. It has its own pros and cons compared to Lapena’s more forward-style, but I personally enjoyed it here.

The plot was overall okay. It was pretty good for about 80% going in. The final stretch really had a lot of things thrown in that I felt like were seemingly out of nowhere. I was really buying everything I was reading right up to the end when things were revealed that were perhaps a bit too much for me. It wasn’t crazy but I certainly wasn’t expecting it and didn’t feel like it was the most natural way for things to end. But I certainly enjoyed the build up and all the intricately woven-in stories working all the way there. For such a complex series of events, it was well planned out and I definitely enjoyed it for the most part.

Overall Recommendations

The Hunting Party takes place in a beautiful Scottish Highland estate, where lifelong friends have decided to take their annual New Years trip. At first it’s the usual fun but soon the cracks start to form in their “perfect” friendship. Miranda, who is just a little bit too perfect. Katie, her constantly overshadowed best friend. Emma, who always feels like an outsider. When one person ends up dead, just who is responsible among them? Who could have done it, and why? Told in multiple POVs alternating between the present and the past (3 days), the story slowly converges on its final finish. If you enjoy deep characters with a plethora of backstory and complicated relationships on the backdrop of a murder mystery, this may be the one for you!


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