“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.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps. Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it. Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
This will be a less formal review and more of a compare-and-contrast between The Hunting Party and The Guest List.
*light spoilers ahead*
I read The Hunting Party shortly after reading The Guest List, which I really enjoyed. I have to admit I was slightly let down by Hunting Party and I am pretty certain that if I had read that first, I wouldn’t have gone on to read Guest List afterward!
I could definitely see how Lucy Foley’s storytelling evolved from Hunting Party to Guest List. The biggest thing I noticed was that Hunting Party had many elements that I thought were overly-familiar. The moments where I could tell I was meant to be shocked and surprised did not elicit that reaction from me. On the other hand, Guest List had more authentic characters which made the story more interesting.
While I don’t think I will ever become bored of this type of “locked room mystery” story, the characters in this one were one-dimensional and boring to me. The first few chapters were a blur of names and details and backstories that were hard to follow. I didn’t get a good grasp of each character until Heather, one of the lodge caretakers, was observing them from an outside perspective. Guest List started right away with an outsider observing the “main” group of friends, and I think that’s a big part of why I was able to follow along with those characters and storylines better. I genuinely couldn’t tell them apart in Hunting Party, the men or the women, until probably the middle of the book. They were so cliched that my eyes glazed over each of their chapters.
Characters aside, the mood of the story itself was suspenseful and atmospheric which is the main reason why I read it. Still, there were moments in which I wasn’t reading as quickly as I normally do because without the believable characters to get on board with, I simply wasn’t invested in the outcome of the story.
I would have never been able to guess the ending, which in hindsight made sense because there were absolutely no clues along the way that would have alluded to that particular ending. I typically like being able to backtrack to add up the clues I may have missed, but in this case it was completely out of left field.
If you are debating about which Lucy Foley book to start with, I would highly recommend The Guest List rather than The Hunting Party.
Goodreads rating: Three stars