Wednesday, January 3, 2024

The Search Party

The Search Party by Hannah Richell
1/16/24; 352 pages
Atria Books

The Search Party by Hannah Richell is a highly recommended mystery. This locked-room thriller is part mystery and part procedural that gets better with each chapter.

A group of old friends are going to a glamping site for a reunion weekend. Max and Annie Kingsley with their twelve-year-old son Kip have left London and are setting up a glamping site/business named Wildernest in Cornwall. They have invited their old university friends, Dominic Davies (with his wife Tanya), Kira de Silva (with partner Frank), Jim Miller, and Suze Miller along with everyone's children join them for the long May Day weekend. Their last reunion was tense, but everyone is hopeful this will be better until tensions arise the first night when a misunderstanding between children causes Dominic to lose his temper and he holds on to his anger. The weekend heads downhill from this.

The Search Party opens with a map of the area and a list of characters. The characters are all quite distinctive as individuals, so it is easy to differentiate between them. An ominous foreboding atmosphere is set at the opening of the novel where a young woman is planning to jump off a cliff. The locked room aspect sets in immediately because when guests arrive they learn that there is no phone reception. Then later a storm rolls in, cutting power and access off. The procedural elements are found in the narrative, which allows the story to unfold between current questioning by police and past recounts of what happened during the weekend.

Because the answers to all your questions are slowly revealed during police questioning of each character and the story of what happened is told incrementally through the viewpoint of each character, the pace is slow until later in the narrative. The charged, tense atmosphere, however, begins early on. Knowing that something awful is going to happen (Someone is unconscious in the hospital) and waiting to pick up clues and hints as they are slowly revealed about the events from the weekend is part of the enjoyment. However, as I was reading I did question why these friends from 20 years ago still have such a strong bond when they really don't all seem to like each other that much.

Richell uses the locked-room plot device to a good effect and The Search Party is enjoyable. Disclosure: My complimentary review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.

No comments: