Another new book – Lucy Foley has written historical novels in the past: this is a contemporary thriller, out this week
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foleypublished 2019
[a group of 30-somethings in Scotland for New Year: they are going shooting as part of their holiday]
We traipse after Doug to the yard behind the Lodge, where his Land Rover sits parked.
Doug opens the barn for us with a state-of-the-art keypad that looks completely bizarre agains the old wood. I suppose they need it, if there are guns in here. As he yanks the heavy wooden door back I enjoy watching his muscles move beneath the old shirt he wears (just a shirt – in this weather!). He would make, I think, an excellent candidate for Lady Chatterley’s lover, so tall and broad and tousled…
He kits us up in the barn: over-trousers and jackets, even walking boots for Katie, who has failed to bring anything remotely sensible.
Beside the jackets and the trousers hang ten rifles.
commentary: Proper outdoor clothes are important in the book – one of the locals in this rugged Scottish Highland hideaway says that ‘the London guests all turned up wearing city people’s idea of rugged outdoor wear – Dubarry boots and Timberlands’. Shocking news that these are not proper bad-weather footwear.
The Hunting Party has an excellent setup: a group of 9 old friends are getting together for New Year, spending a few days in a luxury Lodge with great meals planned and a hunting trip included. The narrative is split between chapters following the group as they arrive and get going, and then ‘Now’ sections where it is obvious that someone has died, that the group has fallen apart, that there is high drama around. The narrative is split between various characters, some of it is in the first person and some in the third, and (oh why do writers do this?) it is in the present tense.
Lucy Foley keeps up the mystery for a long time – at first we just know someone is missing, then we find out the gender, then late on exactly who it is. (I think we were never in any doubt that someone has been murdered, so I won’t include that as secret-keeping.) Everyone has backstory, and secrets, and history with and without the others -and that includes (of course) the people who work at the luxury Lodge, and the two unexpected guests who have been booked in by mistake.
The houseparty is very well done, and very convincing (though obviously we wouldn’t all be ending it in violence): these people have been friends for a long time, maybe too long, maybe things are unravelling, maybe there are incidents in the past that weren’t actually forgiven. And at the same time the holiday sounds great: there are individual cabins, and then a giant central space with living-room and kitchen (and yes of course leather sofas and open fires) and then there is a sauna, and everywhere has huge windows and lovely views of countryside and loch. So that’s a great setup for a crime plot as people walk around meeting each other, peering in windows, spotting lights that shouldn’t be on. But I also kept thinking what a great trip it would be. The shooting party (deer-stalking) sounds awful. Of course all the guests go, vital to the tension and plot, but I found myself wondering how easy it would be to get out of it, what excuse I would have made to stay behind to lie on the sofa in front of the fire reading a detective story…
So a very entertaining read – some of the mysteries rather guessable, but I very much enjoyed the character interactions, the descriptions of the way friendships change, the dynamics when someone has a baby, the wild child who becomes less forgiveable and less charming as she gets older.
A highly entertaining crime book – one to take away with you when you plan a trip with friends. Or perhaps not…
The pictures are from the excellent House of Bruar website, purveyors of country clothes to the gentry.