Spoilers are within this review
As much as I would want to give this book a glowing review, I can't. When I read the cover and discovered it was compared to classic Agatha Christie, I believed it was going to be as such. The setup reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and, And Then There Were None, The Mousetrap, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, the list went on. After finishing it, boy was I disappointed.
As much I can appreciate Lucy Foley's nonlinear writing style, the whole jumping back and forth between present and future is the shortcoming of this book. It could have worked in setting up a much more complex and intriguing murder-mystery scenario, but then I realised something. The book is more interested in looking and sounding more clever than it needs to be. Agatha Christie's writing was never that complex, she just had a nack of setting up a simple scenario and fooling the audience by adding many complex layers to the plot. When the time came for the murderer to be unmasked the answer was always so obvious one must hit themselves over the head in frustration in missing the obvious.
The book starts off well enough, introducing each of the main characters in turn, and allowing the audience to understand a little more about what makes them tick. Then the setup goes off on a tangent and things become both bothersome and irritating at the same time. We are introduced to a secondary character who discovers the body of the murder victim, roughly halfway(?) through I think. When the murder finally took place, I believed the book would start going somewhere. There was only one problem. The identity of the murder victim wasn't revealed until much, much, much later on in the book, the last quarter I believe. This kind of style hinders the reader from guessing who the killer is since they have no platform to work off in guessing the motive behind the murder.
This is where the nonlinear style doesn't work. We know someone has been murdered, but who? is the question. The narrative continually moves forward in time, and then jumps to the future and moves forwards, it jumps back in time and moves forward, and jumps back to the future and moves forward etc. etc. etc. It isn't until the last quarter that the 'present' finally catches up with the 'future' and the murder victim is finally revealed, a little too late in the day to be called a murder mystery. There isn't even the classic sitdown with the detective (there isn't one in the first place) where the truth is revealed, and many more dark secrets are brought to the light.
The characters themselves are typically stereotypical College Kids reminiscing about the 'good old days' before the reality of everyday living turned them into adults. Some of them are not that interesting, The New Parents are the worst.
The book is a page-turner, and Lucy Foley does have a talent when it comes to writing, I just don't think crime writing is her strength. After I finished the book I genuinely forgot who the characters were, and to this day most of the book has slipped from my mind.
I don't like to compare like for like but THE HUNTING PARTY is by no means a classic when it comes to crime fiction. It's not up to the Agatha Christiesque style that it was made out to be (a factor that made me read it in the first place). It's missing many of the ingredients which made Christie's magic formula work time and time again, and as it is, its one hunting party that one should reject an invitation to.