This was a complicated character-driven psychological mystery. 9 people, mainly friends from Oxford meet each year over the New Years holiday. They are now in their thirties. There are four couples and a single in this reunion group who have come to a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish wilderness. They have come to celebrate being together and to party. Some have changed and others have not changed enough. They are mainly high achieving professionals and there is a feeling of snobbishness and elitism displayed by some. Also present at the lodge are two backpackers from Iceland and the female manager, Heather, as well as the gamekeeper, Doug. There is also a handyman, but he is away for the holidays.
The story begins on January 2 when the body of a guest who was missing for over 24 hours is found murdered. The identity of the newly discovered body is not revealed and the killer and their motive is left a puzzle for the reader. The story is told from various perspectives by some members of the hunting party, and also by the lodge manager and gamekeeper and move back and forth in time from the arrival of the guests until the mystery is finally solved. Each chapter is clearly headed with the date and its narrator. The chapters which are told from the guests’ viewpoints reveals them to be unlikeable, and the others seem boring. It becomes clear that if they were only meeting now, very few would become friends. They have little in common except for a sense of entitlement and elitism.
The guest couples are: Emma and Mark. Emma has arranged the vacation. She is a relative newcomer who wants desperately to fit in. Her partner, Mark, has a volatile temper.
Samira and Gilles arrive with their baby, which prevent them from participating fully in events.
Miranda and Julien are considered the ‘golden couple’. Rich, self-absorbed and extremely wealthy, good looking and fashionable. Julien is not happy with the rustic setting and its lack of modern technology. Miranda tends to be rude insulting, and flirtatious but gets away with it, as the others are used to her behaviour and try to accept it.
Nick and Bo are a gay couple. Bo is from New York City and a recovered drug addict.
Kate is the sole lone guest. She is a successful lawyer. She was once best friends with Miranda, but in the intervening time has had no time for her. She was best friends with Nick back in University.
Doug, the gamekeeper and Heather, the manager, have moved to this isolated area to be alone, due to separate unfortunate events in their lives.
The separate chapters reveal something of the narrator's personality, their past friendships at University, and their impressions of the other members of the group, past and present. Long held dislikes, resentments, jealousies and affairs come to light. There is heavy drinking and some drug taking. People are behaving badly and tensions, once hidden, are simmering to the surface, ready to explode.
It is no surprise that one of the guests is murdered, as we discovered at the beginning of the book. A raging snowstorm outside has cut off help from the police by road and even a rescue helicopter is delayed. People are afraid. Not knowing the identity of the murderer, anyone could be in mortal danger.
Recommended to readers who like a modern take on the old fashioned 'locked-room' mystery. Where an unsolved murder has been committed amongst a small group of people with no way out in the immediate future. *3.5* to 4 stars