Being a fan of psychological thrillers, mystery and all things Agatha Christie, when I saw this book in my recommended pile, I immediately knew that I wanted to read it. The cover itself, is very striking with the stag head against the bright yellow. There’s something unnerving or jarring about the combination, almost intimidating, which I feels enhances the plot and concept of the book perfectly. (Mini side-note: something that did affect my reading of the book was that sections of the binding of the book fell out as I was reading the first third of the book. I was so engrossed that I ignored it and continued reading but that was definitely a shock.)
The set-up is similar to how most thrillers are. A group of people, who you slowly learn more about as the story progresses, stuck in a location that is cut off from civilisation. They are isolated, with no means of reaching anyone i.e. the perfect place for a horrific act to occur. It initially reminded me of And Then There Were None mixed with the video game Until Dawn with a splash of Hannibal. An interesting concoction. The way the book is written is split between five perspectives; Miranda, Katie Emma and Doug (pre-dead-body) and Heather (after-dead-body). I guessed those five were either a suspect, or the victim. As this is a spoiler-free zone, I won’t say if that’s right or wrong.
Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…
For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
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?
The friend group this story centres on, are people that met in college and formed a tight knit group that occasionally meet up and go on holidays together. I think, first off, what is so relatable is that there is an understanding of how it can feel like to be an outsider of a group with so much history. During my undergraduate year I was friends with a group of people, through a romantic engagement I had with one of the members. I considered them to be close friends of mine who I spent a majority of my past-time with playing games and attending house parties with. I viewed them to be perfect humans, so kind and caring. After the ending of my romantic relationship with their friend though, they all disappeared, our friendships finished. It’s easy to get caught up with wanting to “fit-in” or be “included” in a group like that. I tried to map out the relationships and past history with the fictional friends. The core ‘Oxford’ friends group are: Miranda, Julien, Mark, Samira, Katie and Giles. Bo and Emma are the new people, entering this group with their romantic ties. There lies that certain intimidation with those inside-group characters. They seem stronger, more confident in themselves. But, as the story progresses you realised everyone isn’t perfect and everyone definitely has their flaws.
What works so well is the switch between multiple POVs. Everyone is a suspect, everyone has a motive, and you don’t know who is dead for most of the book. There were points where I wanted to almost jump in at certain parts of the story and shake the characters as they made blasé statements along the lines of “if I don’t mention this to anyone – nothing will happen right?” (me: OF COURSE IT WILL.) But I think that added to the thrilling aspect of the book. In most horror/thriller films you watch there is always that underlining aspect of wanting to shout at the screen to “not turn around” or “look behind you” which was definitely present in this book. It touched on the theme of the nature of humans as hunters and with animalistic traits. There is always the fight or flight setting in us and the impact we make in consequence of those decisions we are forced to make in those types of situations.
I think what is (in my opinion) commendable about this book is the journey to the twist, more than the twist itself. The intricate relationships between the characters as well as the outside members, trying to solve the mystery was very well thought-out. Also, as a self-proclaimed foodie, the descriptions of food were almost heavenly to read and were some of my favourite parts. A definite read for anyone who loves mysteries/thrillers.
Language & Style: 8 points
Story: 7 points
Characters: 7 points
Plot: 7 points
Total: 29 points out of 40
Favourite Quote: “But at least this landscape has always seemed suited to loneliness, and I am not confronted, every day by all that I have lost, by the echoes of my old life, whole and happy and filled with love.” (p. 171)