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The Hunting Party | Lucy Foley | Review

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

Seven friends head to a secluded estate in the Scottish highlands for their annual New Year's Eve trip. Within days, someone goes missing, and when a body is found, everyone becomes a suspect. Among the group of friends are Miranda, the beautiful one who loves to be at the centre of everything; her husband Julien; her best friend since school, Katie; Nick and his boyfriend, Bo; Samira, her husband, Giles, and their newborn baby, Priya; and Mark and his girlfriend, the newest to group, Emma. It's Emma's turn to organise the group's New Year's Eve trip and, being the newest member of a group who have all known each other since their days at Oxford, she's keen to impress, and sure that the beautiful, modern lodge she has rented for the trip will be just the thing.

There are a few hiccups in Emma's plan, not least the unexpected Icelandic couple who are also staying at the lodge, despite the fact that Emma was promised their group would have the place to themselves, but the bigger issue by far is the glut of secrets being kept and tensions held, barely hidden beneath the surface of the groups' decade old friendships. Told via multiple points of view, the story unfolds both on the day the body is found and through flashbacks to the days leading up to the disappearance, slowly revealing first the suspects, and then the victim, until the threads that have held these friends together over the years are finally pulled taught enough to snap.

The Hunting Party is equal parts a murder mystery and an exploration of the kinds of harm we can do to those we love, aside from the obvious murder. This group of friends, bound together by marriage and more than a decade of shared memories, appears, from the very beginning, to be falling apart at the seams, grasping at an ease they no longer really feel with one other. Emma is desperate to fit in, Miranda is clinging onto her old role as the life of the party, Katie feels excluded as the only singleton, and those are only the three friends whose versions of events we see through their points of view. The other point of view characters are Heather, the manager at the lodge who has run away from an unspoken tragedy, and Doug, the gamekeeper who harbours a dark secret.

Unlike most traditional murder mysteries, the question at the centre of this novel is not only who committed the crime but also who the victim was, and as the mystery slowly unfolds itself, other mysteries begin to appear. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes and the isolated setting of the Scottish Highlands in winter is almost enough to set the tone for an unsettling story all by itself. And that's before the tension between the friends is kicked up a notch by a hunting trip and the unfurling of secrets that can't quite stay contained now that the group are all together again after a year of sporadic contact. Every part of this novel is steeped in tension, and, thanks perhaps to the unlikeable nature of many of the characters, the draw of watching that tension unravel the tenuous bonds between the group of old friends is difficult to resist.

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