The two books I am reviewing run along similar themes-entitlement, luxury getaways and MURDER!
‘The Hunting Party’ by Lucy Foley and ‘STAGS’ by M.A Bennett were both read alongside each other and as they complement each other, I thought it might be nice to focus on them both.
The Hunting Party is published in January 2019 and is the first crime thriller from author Lucy Foley. She sets the scene brilliantly as she details the separate groups of friends travelling to Scotland on an ‘no expense spared’ reunion.
Life has been good to this group of 9 (4 couples and a singleton) who, with the exception of Emma who has been in the ‘gang’ for 3 years dating Mark, have known each other since their uni days. Apart from Mark and Emma there are Miranda and Julien , Giles and Samira (plus baby Priya), Nick and Bo, and Katie, the lone singleton. Tensions are set right from the off when a seat booking error means one of them has to travel in a separate carriage so Katie takes it as a default for being single-but that does mean she is happy about it, it further reinforces her station as ‘the one to be pitied for not being partnered’.
Katie has booked the Lodge, granting them exclusive access to 50,000 acres of prime Highland hunting , each couple-or single-has their own chalet and there is access to a sauna and the beautiful Lodge building. But Emma has already caused tension by buying an incredible amount of luxury food for them all at no expense spared, undermining Katie but also appearing to try and ‘buy her way’ into the exclusive set. The train journey is fraught with tension but it could just been seen as with any other group of friends heading for a holiday-shaking off the vestiges of busy professional life in order to enjoy a holiday. However, old resentments pile onto new ones as friends who haven’t spent any significant amount of time together for a good while remember not so fond days gone by and tensions simmer. Samira and Giles have become ‘baby bores’ which accentuates Miranda’s inability to fall pregnant, Katie has become increasingly distant from Miranda and Emma sees this as a good opportunity to insert herself into Miranda’s good books. Julien and Mark seem to have issues with each other that puzzle the rest of the group and as they all arrive at their destination it becomes increasingly apparent that they will not be able to leave easily or in a hurry due to the snow. Oh and there is the little matter of the unexpected guest who turn up in a really brilliant scene where you can cut the tension with a knife as well as a serial killer on the loose called ‘The Highland Ripper’…
What I loved about this book-All the characters seemed fully formed and realised, their shared experiences at uni is revealed bit at a time, Lucy Foley plays her cards close to her chest but in a tease-y manner rather than a ‘Aha look how clever my writing is !’ way that other writers have. She sets the scene perfectly so by the time they all arrive at The Lodge you have serious misgivings that all are going to survive the weekend -especially when you add in the grumpy caretaker with a secret past and a housekeeper who is in this remote part of the world to escape her own personal tragedy. Early on in the book , a body is found. It is clear it is one of the guests but such is the skill of the author that it is not until 46% of the book is done that you even found out the sex of the victim. She teases out the different narratives and gives each member of the party their own voice and back story without being overly expositional. Tremendously atmospheric and very cleverly plotted , everyone has a reason for murder and I would definitely recommend it(the book, not murder).
What I didn’t like so much-Very little to quibble about, although Bo and Nick didn’t really seem to have much of a prescence in the story, they faded into the background as did Samira,Priya and Giles.By the end I had totally forgotten where they had all come to know each other. But that is all I would say and I wasn’t fussed on them as characters-100% would have been bored by them on a holiday but I think that was the point, that even in a small group such as this there is an inner circle.
I received a copy of ‘The Hunting Party’ from Netgalley in return for an honest review.
‘S.T.A.G.S’ by M.A Bennett is a debut novel that reads a hybrid of ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘The Secret History'(one of my all time favourite books, it genuinely is a brilliant read). When I read the synopsis it sparked that tingly feeling that you get when you pick a really good book!
Greer is being brought up by her widower Dad who makes wildlife documentaries. After winning a scholarship to the most exclusive school possible, she lands in a completely different universe to any she has ever known, Not exactly one for trying to fit in, it is immediately made known to her that she is a ‘Savage’, that is, definitely not a ‘Medieval’-one of an elite circle within the most elite of circles.
It doesn’t really bother her, the Medievals eschew any technology whatsoever, they read rather than tweet, debate rather than Whatsap and wouldn’t be seen dead with a mobile phone. Despite having a bit of a crush of Henry De Walencourt(de facto leader of the Medievals), Greer is absolutely not invested in getting involved. She has seen how they treated Shafeen (they call him The Punjabi Playboy) and Chanel (‘Carphone Chanel’ because she comes from ‘new money’) It’s not exactly outwardly bullying , more subtle character assassination by tiny word barbs.
No one is more surprised than Greer when she, Shafeen and Chanel are invited to Henry’s family seat for a weekend of bloodsports.Huntin’,shootin’, fishin’…murder?
What I liked about this book-I fell in love with Greer completely, she was me as a teen and I felt myself rooting for her , Shafeen and Chanel as things take a slightly sinister twist over this weekend. The set up to the hunting party is fantastic, you get a very well realised portrait of the upper classes, the immense privilege they say as their birth right and the descriptions of the clothes, the buildings and the way it feels to hunt is wonderful. The tension mounts and continues to do so right until the end. I am very much looking forward to reading her next novel ‘The Island’.
What I didn’t like-again, very little,an argument could be made that the characters appear a little 2D in that you have the new money try hard, the girl who doesn’t want to belong and an ethnic minority but that is exactly why they were chosen to go hunting as they represent everything the Medievals despise.It felt a little like the book was running out of steam at the end or maybe I pushed to finish it whilst too tired so am fully prepared to accept that. However it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all!