Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Hunting Party: Lucy Foley

This is a crime fiction novel taking place around New Year's Eve / New Year's Day. A winter getaway in a lovely setting, which goes wrong, of course.

Summary from the book :
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.

This book had an unusual setup. The story is told from the point of view of five characters, alternating between brief chapters. It also skips around in time, which can be confusing. But still, those are both aspects that I like as long as I can keep up with the story.

The book starts on January 2nd, when a body is discovered. Then it quickly moves back to 3 days earlier, and the guests arrive at the estate. The reader knows from the beginning that one of the group has died, but it takes a good bit of the book to actually find out who it was.

There were things that annoyed me about this book. At the end of each chapter, the author has fed us a bit more about the characters to make us wonder about them (or other characters), and leave us wanting to know more. This element felt manipulative to me. I know all mystery writers have to be manipulative with the reader to keep the full story hidden from them, but this was too obvious for me.

It also has elements I love. The snowed-in, cut off from civilization setting for one. The relationships within the group and the characterization was very good.

All the friends, and their significant others plus one child, make a big effort to get together for this regular event. But there are obvious tensions between various people in the group. This reader wondered why most of them are still taking part in the annual gathering.The gradual reveal of what changes have taken place within the group in the ten years since being in school together is well done and interesting.

Although the author leaves it open that anyone may be the villain, there are hints that some of the characters are more dependable, reliable, etc. than others. However, almost all the members in the group were unsympathetic, and there was at least one that I was rooting for to be the victim. They all have secrets.

Also interesting are Heather, the manager of the estate, and Doug, the gamekeeper. They each have problems in the past which have led them to this isolated place.

In the end, I did like this book overall. And some elements of the ending were surprising to me, not a letdown at all. Psychological suspense is not my preferred type of mystery, but I would be willing to try this author again.

Another note, the story is told in present tense, which often turns me off and takes me out of the story. I have finally read enough books written in present tense that I have gotten used to it. However, I like to mention that aspect for those who don't want to read that style.

Also see John Grant's review at Noirish and Kristin Centorelli's review at Criminal Element.

And Moira's post at Clothes in Books, with excellent images to accompany her review.


Publisher:  William Morrow, 2019.
Length:     327 pages
Format:     Hardcover
Setting:     Scotland
Genre:      Psychological suspense
Source:     Borrowed from my husband.


Margot Kinberg said...

I've heard a lot about this one, Tracy, so it's good to know what you thought of it. I'm one of those people who don't care for the present tense in stories, and I know exactly what you mean about feeling too obviously manipulated. Still, I can see how there were elements that you enjoyed. There is something about that claustrophobic feeling that happens when the weather seals a group of people in together. It can be awfully effective, can't it?

Clothes In Books said...

I read this one at this time last year, and enjoyed it as a good seasonal read. It was cleverly done I thought.

TracyK said...

I would not have read this so soon after publication if my husband had not bought and liked it, Margot. So I am glad of that nudge and I did enjoy the story, although it was one of those books that I critiqued too much as I read it. It was a wonderful setting and a different reading experience for me.

TracyK said...

Oh, I am sorry I missed that, Moira. I have now added a link in the post, especially because the images you used are so perfect. I like your take on the book. You mentioned a subject I omitted, the emphasis on hunting. In the American South where a grew up, hunting is (was?) big and I had relatives who hunted. They lived in small town, rural Mississippi. My father hunted when he was very young but not when I knew him. But not a subject I know much about or understand.

Katrina said...

I've just reserved it from the library - so much for concentrating on my own books.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, it's exactly this kind of novel with multiple narrators, settings and time zones that I'd never read as an ebook. I often find these stories confusing and need to turn back pages, which, as you know, is easier in a paper book. And then there's the present tense narrative that puts me off too. Despite all that I'd still go ahead and read the book. The cover has me sold.

TracyK said...

I have the same problem, Katrina. I already have a couple of books I want to order online even though I have plenty on my shelves.

TracyK said...

I have difficulty reading e-books, Prashant, although I plan to read some this year now that I am retired and can read in the daytime. I do like that you can search e-books and highlight sections.

col2910 said...

I usually like multiple viewpoints in books and I've seen this one around. Maybe I'll keep an eye out for this.

TracyK said...

I think you would like it, Col. It certainly is a fast read.