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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

"The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley

A West Highland lodge where nine old friends (and a couple from Iceland, and the manager and the gamekeeper) are celebrating New Year is cut off from the outside world ... and one of the guests is found dead.

Very Agatha Christie. But the twist is that we don't know the identity of the murder victim until almost the end. The story is narrated by three of the female guests and the female manager and (the only male voice) the gamekeeper but it is narrated in the present tense so that any one of them (or one of the others) could be either victim or killer; the tension is kept up by swapping the time backwards and forwards from before the murder to after so that we can know almost immediately that someone is dead but still be in the dark about whom or how.

But the four part structure doesn't seem to hold particularly well for this book. True, we discover exactly one quarter of the way through the book that the body that was discovered tight at the start looks like it was deliberately killed but this isn't much of a surprise; this is a murder mystery and the genre demands deliberate death. We are kept guessing for a long time whether the victim is male or female, I first discovered gender at 44%. The half way mark passes without a great reveal. We move into the endgame at 83% and the death is re-enacted at 94%, which is more or less the same point as we discover the identity of the victim, but the 75% turning point reveals, if anything, something about one of the characters that I had guessed quite a long time before.

In some ways the bulk of the book consists of a fairly systematic exploration of the suspects. Not all the suspects are greatly explored and, playing the genre game, one assumes that the underplayed characters cannot be murderers. Of course all of them have secrets:

  • Doug the gamekeeper and Heather the manager have issues which is why they are working in such a lonely and isolated place.
  • Miranda and Julien are the golden couple but he is a banker doing something dodgy and she is a bitch to everyone
  • Mark was best friends with Julien at Oxford and had a massive crush on Miranda; he is now married to newcomer to the group Emma, the organiser.
  • Nick and Bo are the gay couple; Miranda outed Nick to his parents at Oxford
  • Giles and Samira are the couple who have just had a baby; Samira was the sporty pushy one at Oxford
  • Katie is the singleton, working all hours in her city lawyer job; she has always been Miranda's 'project' and has lived her life in Miranda's shadow.
It is certainly a page turner and the end ramps up the action from murder mystery to thriller but I wasn't convinced by the denouement. Perhaps that's just sour grapes because I didn't see it coming.

Some great moments:

  • "In the times we live in we are all stalkers."
  • "New Year's Eve. The loneliest night of the year, even if you're with people.  ... There's always that worry that you're maybe not having quite as much of a good time as you could be."
  • "How little it takes, I think, just some shadows, really, to make ourselves unknown to each other."
  • "Wow. Alcohol always makes me think deep thoughts."
December 2019 388 pages

This book was one of the 'Books and Beer' subscription which my wonderful wife bought me for Christmas. Other titles include:
The Plotters by Un-Su-Kim: a post-modern thriller set in the assassination business in Korea
Ask a Policeman by the Detection Club
Most Wanted by Robert Craik: a fast-paced thriller set in California
The Devil's Dice by Roz Watkins: a whodunnit set in the English Peak District
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth: a stunning tale of crime and revenge, of temptation and sin, of evil and redemption set in 1880s Queensland and as gritty as only the Australian Outback can get.
Snap by Belinda Bauer: a brilliant story about a young lad who, having become a burglar in order to survive, discovers his mother's killer.
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic: a murder mystery set in Australia in which the PI is deaf
The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal: classic Chandleresque Mexican noir
The Closer I Get, a thriller in which an author is stalked by an obsessive fan.
Homegrown Hero by Khurrum Rahman, an up-to-date thriller about fundamentalist terrorism set in Hounslow, West London

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