Author – Lucy Foley
Publisher – William Morrow
Publish date – 12th February 2019
Genre – Mystery / Psychological Suspense
POV – First person, Present tense
Nine, dysfunctional, thirty-something old college friends go on vacation together to an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands. One of them is murdered.
This story, like One Little Secret, was a fun, gossipy, whodunit type psychological suspense. The dynamics of a group of dysfunctional friends with a long intertwined and messy history was utilized to build tension. Their slow but inevitable unraveling held interest in a kind of “crash you can’t look away from” style.
Foley was effective in hooking me in from the beginning. We are told someone is missing and later found dead. We alternate between past and present, playing catch up and trying to piece together the central mysteries; who, among these, at first, nostalgic old friends, was the victim, who the murderer and how it could all have happened. Starting at the present then returning to three days prior the incident, then two, then one, like a murder countdown.
Seeing how it all comes apart was entertaining enough to hold my interest, but it was never really something that had me on edge or creeped out further than a small scene or two. Most of the suspense and creep factor relying heavily on the backdrop of the story and the dangling of the major event and present P.O.V. dealings, with details handed out sparingly over time.
I had hoped there would be a little more than friendship/relationship/personal drama, one murder and one attempted murder. With the surroundings and poachers mentioned so frequently, I kept envisioning some sort of calculated hunting down of the rest of the guests. It turned out to be a murder created by a set of unfortunate circumstances at the wrong place and time, out of passion. It was really more character involved and the surroundings provided a sense of unease, making it feel creepier than it was in reality.
At first, there was a bit of confusion for me, trying to remember who was who and linked to who. You’re sprung in the middle of all these names and histories and dynamics that can be a bit much at once, but I did get my head around it after a few chapters (and also a map of characters).
The P.O.V’s were well distinguished. Voice and characterization a strong point of the story and individualized to the point where I could recognize the person talking without having to see the name.
However, I didn’t find myself caring for any of the characters, either because there was not enough of them directly involved for so long that I couldn’t invest or they were just, well… unlikable. They were all a little irritating and shady and I found the way the friend group needed to pretend around each other and resume their college roles again unbearably immature.
I particularly hated Miranda but appreciated how Foley handled her, and the rest of the characters, with a quality of roundedness. We were given a fuller picture of the main characters than even the friends themselves saw at times. I hated Miranda but I saw her vulnerability. Her worse qualities rounded off and filled in with more detail which didn’t make her likable necessarily but real and occasionally someone you could relate to or sympathize with.
That was my favorite aspect of the story, characters rather than the major plot events. It was so interesting to see how they all saw each other. How much they thought they knew each other and about each other’s lives and at the same time to see the reality of it.
The things that sounded wonderful from one friend’s perspective, in reality, is not all it seems. Everything has its downsides. The real reasons we behave a certain way toward someone not necessarily as clear as it seems from the outside. The people we envy and think we know so much about, we don’t truly. Because we can’t know everything or because we aren’t allowed to see beyond that wall. And because life is complicated, and perspective limited.
In the end some aspects of the mysteries were kind of predictable. It was no surprise that what was happening at the Loch and the extra couple guest was a distraction from the main killer. It was no surprise to me that the killer was not Doug. It was no surprise when Katie and Julien’s affair was revealed. But some of it did surprise me.
I was a little surprised by all that was revealed to be going on at once. I was surprised by the revelation of the murderer and the history there. There was a lot of appreciated character drama and complication but not as much suspense as I was hoping for. Miranda ended up pushing the wrong person a little too far and there was a little poetic justice in that. I was surprised by how long it had all really been building up for and I enjoyed that it was all tied together quite neatly when unveiled.
3/5 A dysfunctional friendship drama turned murder mystery.