Published by Harper Collins 31st October 2019 (paperback)
Billed as the best selling crime thriller for 2019 this book has a lot to live up to. Set over the New Year weekend of 2018/19 a group of friends leave London and head for the remote Scottish Highlands where the landscape is beautifully brutal.
From the off you understand that this is a very dysfunctional group of friends, they go back a long way to their days at Oxford and for the most part it appears they wish they were still there, taking drugs, getting drunk and playing Twister is how they pass the time to midnight. However, beneath the surface, there are some deep rooted issues that have never been acknowledged amongst the group and as the weekend goes on these hidden secrets start to reveal themselves. The development of the characters is excellent and we learn a lot of their backgrounds and how they all became , and somehow remained, friends.
I really like the structure of this book, a body is found early on in the story and the text flips from one time to another and is told from the different points of views from each character. When the body is found we don’t immediately know the identity of the victim, all we learn is that it is one of the guests and murder is the cause. Due to heavy snowfall the emergency services are unable to attend the scene so it falls to the two estate workers, who have their own major emotional baggage to say the least, to try and contain the situation. I did find these two characters as unsettling as the deep dark loch next to the lodge.
I found that I didn’t actually like any of the characters but that didn’t bother me, in fact I think that made the story even more enjoyable, they are all so dislikable that you really do not have a clue who the victim or murderer is, they are all capable and all have a motive for one reason or another. Each character has their own story to tell and that is done really well as we are given detailed accounts of past events. There are lots of twists and turns and it really does keep you guessing not only who the victim is, but who did it.
I really enjoyed this book, I read it fairly quickly because it kept my interest and I definitely became invested in the characters and their stories. The descriptions of the Scottish landscape are excellent and they create a creepy feel when the guests walk alone back to their cabins and see dark figures in the woods and hear high pitched screeches. This is a book that has many layers to it, there are little stories within stories being told that all come together to build a wider narrative.