Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

by Heather Caliendo

Editorial note: I received a copy of The Hunting Party in exchange for a review. 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is a page-turning murder mystery with one surprise after another.

The story begins on Jan. 2 and a body is found. You don’t find out who it is until the end of the novel but there are hints along the way, along with plenty of curveballs to throw off your inner detective.

A group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students 10 years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands. 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, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Narrative

While there are many characters in this one, the story is told from the perspectives of three friends, the lodge manager and the caretaker. Each one has plenty of secrets and there’s specific reasons why those characters are the focus of the book. The setting is quite vivid and descriptive but attention never strays from focus on the characters themselves. While this group of friends seems like they would have no troubles in the world, we soon learn there’s lots of hostility and untold resentments between them.

Growing apart

When it comes to mysteries and thrillers, there has to be more than just the devious act itself. I’m not particularly interested in stories of people being evil just because they can. More context and motivation makes for a stronger thriller, which is the case for The Hunting Party.

Something that stuck out from this one compared to others in the genre is the focus on friends drifting apart post-college. In a way, this idea reminded me of the Netflix show Friends From College about a group of dysfunctional, self-centered friends that cause more harm to each other than good. But that’s where the similarities end—Friends From College is very much a comedy while this novel is absolutely not one!

Most of the group of friends in The Hunting Party are not so likable. In fact, it’s guarantee you will actively dislike several in particular. The character Miranda is beautiful but vain and can be cruel in a moment’s notice. She’s used to getting everything she wants so whenever someone doesn’t fall in line with her expectations, she doesn’t hold back her venom. Her best friend Katie has served as her side kick for years but she’s tired of always coming in second place to Miranda—she’s ready to take control of her own story. But of course, it’s not so cut and dried. Sometimes when Miranda is mean, she immediately regrets it but still doesn’t apologize. And Katie is no angel. Their dynamic is intriguing. And while there’s no doubt at different times you won’t like either of those characters, there is more than meets the eye with both of them. Neither are all good or all bad.

Overall, this is a well-written mystery and character study full of tension and intrigue.

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