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Literature / The Hunting Party

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The Hunting Party is a 2019 thriller novel by Lucy Foley. During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.


Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


Contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Emma mentions that Mark's father used to beat him so badly that his mother would send him to school wearing concealer to cover his bruises and it's why Mark himself has such a volatile temper.
    • Miranda's mother was implied to have been emotionally abusive and constantly policed her daughter's looks and weight.
    • Katie's mother is outright stated to be an alcoholic.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Emma - is her obsession with Miranda because she wants Miranda or because she wants to be Miranda? She offhandedly mentions enjoying having sex with Mark after Miranda gets him riled up, but it's hard to tell if she feels anything towards Mark or if she just gets a rush from fucking Miranda's cast-offs. She also brings up stalking a girl when she was a child in much the same way she stalked Miranda, but given she was only a kid at the time she doesn't bring up any romantic feelings.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Miranda Adams is the most obvious - she's from a wealthy background, is called 'The beautiful one' in Doug's narration (who doesn't even like her, mind you) and she likes to remind everyone of this. Julien was also considered the most handsome guy in their clique at Oxford. Samira was known as "Princess Samira" because of how beautiful and poised she was. Nick also counts, given he's considered very good-looking and is the son of a pair of diplomats, though he isn't quite as keen to show off about it as Miranda.
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  • Berserk Button: Don't call Doug a coward. No, really, don't.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Doug manages to find where Heather went by following her tracks through the snow and shooting Iain before he has a chance to hurt her. Heather can only comment in her narration how stupid she was going out to the Old Lodge by herself without telling anyone where she was going, though Iain does insist he never intended to kill Heather.
    • Heather gets a turn when she pulls a Diving Save just as Emma is about to shoot Katie.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Good lord, Emma!
  • The Bore: Miranda comments that Samira used to be the life of the party, but since having a baby all she does is talk about Priya.
  • Charm Person: One major reason why Miranda has so many friends who flock to her even with her nasty habit of undermining people is because she is incredibly charismatic and charming, something both Emma and Katie comment on when the cool, popular Miranda Adams started paying attention to them as youths.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally - there ten rifles in the storage shed. One of them goes missing during the climax.
    • Miranda's lighter with her family crest on it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Iain, who is repeatedly mentioned as not being at the Lodge because he went home to his family for New Year's Eve. Turns out he was hiding out in the old one all along.
  • Child Hater: Downplayed example with Miranda, but Katie comments that she's been acting like Samira's baby, Priya, is "an inconvenient piece of luggage" and Julien later admits to her that even though they've been trying for a baby for two years, Miranda doesn't seem to actually like children and only wants one because everyone else has one.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: To pay Mark back for sexually harassing her earlier, Miranda chooses to humiliate him during "Truth or Dare" by daring him into drinking an entire bottle of champagne in ten seconds, practically forcing the neck down his throat and demanding he hurry up and swallow it, while he's gagging on his knees in front of everyone.
  • Driven to Suicide: Heather comments that her self-imposed isolation in the Loch, taking a freezing dip in the lake every morning and hiring a groundskeeper she knows nothing about all point to her not having very much regard for her own life and her mother worries about her constantly. She discovers when she's been cornered by Iain, though, that she actually doesn't want to die.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Iain may be a drug smuggler, but he protests that he'd never kill anyone.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Katie refuses to take any pills Miranda passes out because the last time she did, she made a huge mistake and slept with someone she shouldn't have. That someone turns out to have been Julien.
    • Emma offhandedly mentions a party in London where Miranda got stuck in the toilets, which strikes Miranda as odd but she can't work out why. That's because Emma shouldn't have been there to remember it - she always claimed to have gone to the University of Bath.
    • Emma is the only one who can take the kill shot when they go hunting. She's also the one who kills Miranda.
  • Functional Addict: Bo - according to Katie, Nick was basically his carer when they first started dating, but he's been drug-free for a while when the story starts.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mark, who is "the volatile one" and is the first one to start freaking out when the snowstorm traps everyone inside the Loch.
  • Hypocrite: Miranda is pretty glib about the fact that she cheated on Julien during their early days at university and goes out of her way to make him jealous by flirting outrageously with Doug, but she's outraged when she discovers he's been cheating on her with Katie.
  • Idle Rich: Miranda is clever, beautiful and wealthy but as pointed out by Julien, Samira and Katie, she thinks that this means that she shouldn't have to put any effort into anything. Katie mentions that she graduated with a Third from Oxford and a mutual friend confided that the reason she doesn't work is because she can't comprehend being expected to do menial tasks and work her way up - such as refusing to lick envelopes and claiming it's "beneath her."
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Katie declines to have any pills or alcohol offered on the offchance she is pregnant, but then Miranda dares her to spend ten seconds fully submerged in the Loch, which is below freezing and Katie has to break the ice to jump in, then later she's shoved to the ground by Heather when Emma tries to shoot her. Katie states that despite this, the baby is fine and she's almost at her due date by the epilogue.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Since Mark didn't actually know about the insider trading (Julien lied that he did to cover up for the cheating), and the note condemning him was lost, Julien never faces consequences for breaking the law or cheating on Miranda, and gets to run off to Goa with a gorgeous yoga teacher.
    • Emma does go to jail, but her appearance as a nice middle-class white girl and put-on of remorse means she gets manslaughter, not murder, so it's only four years.
  • Lawof Inverse Fertility: Miranda comments with some resentment that she's been trying for a baby for two years while Samira got pregnant immediately after she stopped taking the pill. Katie also gets pregnant by Julien after only sleeping with him once.
  • Living Prop: Priya, Samira's baby, doesn't have much actual impact on the story overall and mostly serves as a source of conflict between Samira and Miranda, and Samira and Giles, given that Samira is the only person who declines to go on the deer-hunting expedition to keep an eye on the baby, while Giles goes off on his merry way as if the welfare of his child is of no concern to him.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: Mark invokes this when he implies that Nick and Bo won't want to him on the deer-shooting part of the holiday because they are gay. Nick pretty much tells him to shut the hell up (albeit with forced politeness) and proves to be a much better shot than Mark, Julien or Giles. Bo is actually a terrible shot but it's obvious he's not taking the activity seriously anyway. Surprisingly, Emma proves to be the best shot of all, much to the annoyance of Miranda.
  • Never My Fault: When Miranda catches Julien cheating on her, he pretty much lays all of the blame on Katie and acts like he had no control over the situation, even though the first time they had sex Katie was basically tripping balls and the other time it was a mutual affair on both their ends.
    • Emma acts like she had to strangle Miranda for calling her a psychopath.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Miranda is very beautiful and she knows it, so she tends to expect everyone to fall at her feet and overreacts when they don't. When she notices Katie is being quiet and distant, she becomes resentful that Katie isn't her little puppet anymore and even dares her to jump into the below-freezing Loch out of spite. Then when she shows up wasted outside Doug's door, he tells her to leave and she resorts to throwing a tantrum because she can't fathom being rejected, let alone by a gameskeeper she thinks of as her inferior.
    • When Miranda discovers Emma has basically been stalking her since their university days and stealing her belongings from her, she freaks out and tells Emma she doesn't want anything to do with her anymore and calls her a psychopath, which is enough to make Emma snap and kill Miranda in a rage.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Something of a Fatal Flaw for Miranda, which Katie lampshades, as she has a tendency to make "jokes" about people that can often be a little cruel and people sometimes don't realise she doesn't really mean it. She tends to get away with it with her charming personality, but often she rubs people up the wrong way.
  • Pair the Spares: Emma and Mark - both Katie and Miranda comment that it's obvious Mark has an enormous crush on Miranda and seems to have settled with Emma because Emma looks like a cheaper, less pretty version of Miranda. Even Emma admits that she's aware that Mark as always had a huge crush on Miranda. Turns out, Emma was just using Mark as a means to be near Miranda, since Mark and Julien have been best friends since university.
  • Poor Communication Kills: On the first night, Mark corners Miranda alone and tells her that Julien is hiding something from her and she deserves better. Miranda assumes that she knows what he's about to say (that Julien is insider trading) and firmly tells him she doesn't want to hear it. Instead of just saying that Julien is cheating on her with Katie, he continues to say she "deserves better", makes an unsubtle case that he is the "better" in this scenario, and bruises her arm. Miranda obviously shuts him down, only to find out later in the most dramatic way possible, which contributes to her storming off drunk and alone to get murdered by Emma.
  • Red Herring: All over the place. There are several characters set up to have a history of violence, especially Doug, who nearly strangled someone to death just as Miranda is strangled and sometimes goes into fugue states, but none of these characters are the killer.
  • Satellite Character: Giles is the least-developed out of the group, mainly existing to be Samira's husband.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Both Katie and Miranda comment that Samira and Giles are so attached at the hip and so in sync with each other that it becomes a little disgusting.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Doug was in the Afghanistan war and he has untreated PSTD from it, including blackout periods and rage problems.
  • Ship Tease: Between Doug and Heather, the lodge's manager and the groundskeeper. evolves into Relationship Upgrade by the end.
  • Shout-Out: The whole book is inspired by And Then There Were None, except this time in a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands, trapping everyone at the Lodge because of the snow.
  • Slumming It: Doug's (and Heather's, to a lesser degree) opinion on the group, a bunch of snobby Londoners playing it roughing it in the wilderness, whilst staying in a fancy lodge with a sauna. Even Katie admits they're not really wrong.
  • Supreme Chef: Emma is an amazing cook and plans a lavish meal for everyone. She takes it somewhat personally when she notices that Katie barely eats any of it.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Doug has this. He saw a child wearing a bomb run towards his unit, and froze because he knew the bomb would go off, but he couldn't bear to shoot an innocent five-year-old who didn't even know what he was carrying. They were all killed except Doug (who was out of the way in his sniper's nest), and even though his therapist assured him he had no good choices, he's still haunted.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Katie comments that Mark has a huge upper-body thanks to going to the gym a lot, but he has somewhat short legs, making him look a bit like an action figure, while Emma looks like a cheaper, less pretty version of Miranda.
  • Uptown Girl: Miranda is one to Julien and it provides a lot of friction in their marriage, as Miranda doesn't work and never has to thanks to her wealthy parents, while Julien isn't exactly poor but he pulled himself up to where he is on his own bootstraps. When Miranda calls him out on how stupid he is to get involved with inside trading, he retorts that she doesn't have much right to complain considering all the holidays, expensive clothes and items that it brings and that it's not like she contributes anything to their finances herself.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Bo goes out of his way to help Miranda when she's both extremely drunk and tripping on pills, saying that it's something he was always grateful for when people did it for him (obviously referencing when he was still using drugs). By way of thanks, Miranda says it's different because she's not a junkie.
  • Verbal Tic: Mark seems to use "mate" a lot, something Doug mockingly imitates at one point.
  • With Friends Like These...: Everyone regularly snaps at and insults each other before papering it over with a party atmosphere (greatest hits: Mark insinuating that Nick and Bo won't come hunting because they're gay, Miranda insulting Samira's baby, the disastrous Truth or Dare game). Justified, as one running theme is that the characters have grown apart since their college days and their friendship is increasingly based more on precedent than actually liking each other. At the end of the book they've mostly gone their separate ways, and Katie muses that it's time to make new friends.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: After it becomes obvious who the victim is, the possibility of the killer is widens, as the victim pretty much managed to antagonise everyone in the Lodge and several people have good reason to want to shut them up for good.
  • Workaholic: Katie, by her own admission, admits that much of her social life has slipped away from her because she's been so busy at her law firm and hopes to be made a partner soon. Miranda resents Katie for putting her career before her, despite the fact that Miranda doesn't have a job and has no idea about the responsibility that entails.

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