Reading “The Hunting Party” by Lucy Foley got me thinking: how much of a book would you read before you give up on a book? Ten pages? Twenty? A quarter?
I’ve reached page 217 of 388, discounting end pages and an extract from her next one. That’s more than halfway. And I quit.
The cover carries the descriptive quotes of “gripping”, “chilling” and “sinister”, and “a ripping, riveting murder mystery . . .”
They’re what sold the book to me.
Fair enough, everyone has a different perspective, but I can’t agree.
The premise is good and promises a Christie-esque mystery. It’s set at New Year, and a group of friends have travelled north from London to a remote estate in the Highlands. They’ll stay in a selection of cottages near the central lodge.
It opens with the discovery of a body by the property manager and her odd-job man, each of whom has their own mysterious background. The body is one of the guests.
So far, so promising.
But here’s where I began to detach from the narrative.
The writer makes a torturous effort to withhold the sex of the victim from the reader. Even in dialogue, character Heather refers to he/she at all times as “the guest”. It feels awkward and clunky.
We learn, in a protracted description, that two of the guests are almost identical in colouring. It’s a clue to the victim, but dealt with a too-heavy hand.
And what of the guests? They’re one-dimensional clichés of “London city types”, with their wrong clothes and shoes, lack of practical skills, and pretentious menus.
There’s the glamorous, controlling one. And her adoring, grateful friend. Her secretive husband. The stalker-ish male admirer. The recent-mum other friend. Her newly-distant third female friend. The gay couple.
Oh, and a weird Icelandic couple in another cottage.
Not a single character is likeable. I felt nothing for them — not sympathy, or . . . well, anything. They left me cold.
Another description of the book is that it’s “charged with real menace”. I didn’t get any sense of mounting tension, menace or suspense.
I just kept urging the writer to get on with it.
So although I’m apparently out of step with most reviewers, who relished it, I’ve quit.
Lucy has recently read “The Stationery Shop of Tehran” by Marjan Kamali and loved it.
I have it on my bookshelf. I’d much rather go and read that.
For more book reviews from the team, click here.