New Year’s Eve. Nine friends gather for their regular trip away to celebrate the end of the old and the beginning of the new. Emma, the newest girl of the group, is nervous as she has planned this year’s getaway to a remote Scottish lodge. There are undercurrents of tension hidden behind the bonhomie. And then the snow settles and the group are cut off from the outside world. And only 8 of them will leave the lodge alive when the thaw comes.
Disparate group of friends. Check. Remote location. Check. Weird guests wandering the grounds. Check. Tensions running high, history resurfacing and the weather colluding to trap everyone. Check. Now we are set for a closed room mystery out in the vast Scottish Highlands.
Despite the setting, or perhaps because of it, The Hunting Party has a close, bordering on claustrophobic feel to it. The location is bleak, rural, no neighbours for miles around. My ideal home if I’m honest. There’s a sense of unease from the outset. The short days and long nights of winter meant I imagined a perpetual darkness or twilight to the proceedings.
The story is narrated by five main characters, Emma, Heather, Katie, Miranda and Doug, and flits between the arrival of the party and the day the body is found. Heather and Doug, the only real staff at the lodge, both have their own secrets to keep and their own reasons for wanting to work in such a remote and lonely place. They give the reader the viewpoint from outside the group, a more independent narrative, that highlights cracks appearing that those inside the group don’t immediately see. Emm, Kate and Miranda each show a different side to the group. Emma, so desperate to fit in, aware of the shared history that will forever make her feel like an outsider. Miranda is the planet around which the others orbit. She is a complex character, prone to selfishness and used to getting her own way. Katie is the quieter one. The only single person in the group she becomes increasingly aware of the almost toxic relationship she has with Miranda, her supposed best friend.
None of the group of friends are that likable. They all have secrets to hide or barely concealed animosity, despite, or perhaps because of, the history between them.
The victim is not revealed until well into the story, though it is easy to surmise who the unlucky friend is. The clues are dotted so that the group members can be excluded from the list of potential victims, and indeed of potential murderer. I had guessed who the culprit and victim were before the reveal, but this didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
This is very much a story of secrets, of toxic relationships and dangerous connections. Murder is the result, rather than the cause.
An interesting, entertaining read from Lucy Foley.