8) The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
I was excited about reading this; a bit of light, crime relief after some heavier reading. The premise was good too: a bunch of posh-ish friends going away for New Year’s in a secluded country house somewhere in Scotland, and then a body is found as they find out they are cut off from anywhere. And it came with a bunch of excited write-ups from authors I like.
So what a profound disappointment. First up, the characters are all pretty universally unlikeable – I’m sure this isn’t accidental, but I genuinely didn’t warm to a single one of them, or feel any sense of empathy or engagement; so I wasn’t really rooting for any of them to escape, not die, be happy, survive or whatever. And their backgrounds, where not paper thin, were cardboard caricatures.
Secondly, the plot doesn’t convince at all – so many aspects were odd or unbelievable: from the random people staying there to the bizarre sub-plot to the way the various days at the house play out. It’s also structured poorly; in intersecting chapters, the plot moves forward and backwards, with different narrators – this isn’t an uncommon format, but it’s done here in a way that seems to work against any building of tension, or ratcheting up of pace, or any clever revealing of detail.
Thirdly, the denouement, such as there is, is rushed and (also) unconvincing; although at this point came as blessed relief as it signalled the end. Given I didn’t care who did it to whom and in what way, it primarily served to move the pages on….towards the next book. It felt like a thin film script at various points, but especially towards the end.
All in all, a reminder to me (given how much crime fiction I read) of how difficult it it so write a great thriller, to control and structure the narrative, to build tension and to craft realistic characters that are rounded, have depth and engage the reader. Sadly, this did none of those. Avoid!
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