The Search Party is the first book I’ve read by Hannah Richell and I enjoyed it though was slightly worried to see a list of characters’ names before the intro. I often struggle if I have to keep flicking back to remind myself who’s who. Though here we’re predominantly in the heads of four couples so don’t have to worry quite as much about the eight children.The Search Party
by Hannah Richell
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Max and Annie Kingsley have left the London rat race with their twelve-year-old son to set up a glamping site in the wilds of Cornwall. Eager for a dry run ahead of their opening, they invite three old university friends and their families for a long-needed reunion and a relaxing weekend.
But the festivities soon go awry as tensions arise between the children (and subsequently their parents), explosive secrets come to light, and a sudden storm moves in, cutting them off from help as one in the group disappears.
The structure of this is a little similar to Kill Your Husbands by Jack Heath as we join the group AFTER the events of the weekend and then slowly go back and forth from the near-past to the present with the police hovering. And like Heath – though we learn someone’s been injured and someone else dead – we’re not sure who but slowly work it out through a process of elimination.
Given the remote location of the campsite it’s almost akin to a locked-room mystery Agatha Christie style (with limited players), but Richell very cleverly keeps readers guessing for much of the novel. I think we expect the misdirection in relation to the hospitalised victim because it’d be too obvious otherwise, but given the terrain and storm it’s unclear if their disappearance / injury and the death involves foul play, or the result of a tragic accident.
In some ways the adults are a bit cliched… most likeable were the tree-changers who opted out of their busy city life to set up the glamping business. They’re devoted but nervous parents of a 12 year old they’ve adopted six years earlier and though there’s reference to his dire life before I wasn’t sure we learn exactly what’s happened to him. (Though I may have missed that.)
Least likeable are the reality show (mean-judge) and his wife, the latter seeming like someone out of ‘Secret Housewives of something-or-other’. Like Kill Your Husbands, we again ponder how university friendships have endured this long – perhaps their catch-ups are habit rather than an urge or interest in seeing each other. And then of course there’s always the challenge of being a partner or newcomer to the (once) tight-knit group. I must admit the fact I didn’t really bond with any of the characters meant I was less concerned about their fate.
Richell does a good job with the twist here. It’s a little left field though there are some hints. I perhaps thought the way it played out was a little unrealistic or unfeasible but it’s kinda satisfying nonetheless, making this an enjoyable and suspenseful read.
The Search Party by Hannah Richell will be published in Australia in early January 2024 by Simon & Schuster.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.