The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley
Hoo, boy. You know how some stories feel like they were Written By Algorithm? That’s The Hunting Party for you.
It’s about a group of mostly rich Londoners in their mid-30s going to a remote estate in Scotland for New Year’s. They get snowed in, all kinds of various Secrets and Grudges bubble up, and someone is MURDERED.
Oh, and also there’s a serial killer on the loose, because of course there is.
Except for the fact that there’s only one actual murder, it reads like someone—the author, presumably—took all the most standard genre conventions of whodunnits and threw them into a blender with all of the most standard genre conventions of a slasher movie, but skipped all of the humor and made it really overwrought.
Here’s an example of the overwrought:
But I don’t ever drink for pleasure. I do it out of necessity. I use it as another painkiller: to blunt the edge of things, to alleviate the chronic, aching torment of memory. (63)
THE CHRONIC, ACHING TORMENT OF MEMORY, guys. If nothing else, this all would make for an amazing evening of DRAMATIC MONOLOGUING.
As in the slasher genre, most of the main characters are written as pretty standard archetypes. Foley tries to push back on that by having her characters—most of them narrate in the first person—have Deep Trains of Thought like this:
This is the thing about people like Julien. In an American rom-com someone as good-looking as him might be cast as a bastard, perhaps to be reformed, to repent of his sins later on. Miranda would be a bitchy Prom Queen, with a dark secret. The mousy nobody—me—would be the kind, clever, pitifully misunderstood character who would ultimately save the day. But real life isn’t like that. People like them don’t need to be unpleasant. Why would they make their lives difficult? They can afford to be their own spectacularly charming selves. And the ones like me, the mousy nobodies, don’t always turn out to be the heroes of the tale. Sometimes we have our own dark secrets. (14)
A) She’s not describing the character conventions of a rom-com there, she’s describing the character conventions of a slasher movie. (Does the day really need to get saved in rom-coms very often? Not counting Speed, which I just rewatched the other day and is totally a stealth rom-com?)
B) It reads like she’s reacting to media from the ‘80s and hasn’t ingested anything new—not only has this all has been dealt with again and again and again in recent years, it’s been dealt with more thoughtfully and just, you know, BETTER—since then.
C) This section is supposed to make me tap my chin and say, YOU KNOW, SHE REALLY HAS A POINT, but really it just made me say OH SHUT UP.
Oof. Apologies, I probably should have put a CRANK WARNING on this one.
Three other mysteries set during blizzards that are WAYYYYYYY more enjoyable than The Hunting Party:
1222, by Anne Holt
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia
Please do recommend your own favorites, this is truly one of my favorite subgenres! (Which is maybe why this one was so disappointing?)