HarperCollins | 2020 (12 November) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
In 1998, two brothers, Will and Adam, insist on skiing down a mountain in the French Alps during a blizzard. One isn’t as confident on skis as the other but both are competitive and neither one will back down, despite their guide’s efforts to make them see sense. One reaches the bottom, the other does not.
Twenty years later, Hugo and Ria rent a luxurious chalet in the Alps, looked after by the infinitely patient and organised Millie. They are joined by another couple, Simon and Cass with their small child and nanny. The intention is to tempt Simon to invest in Hugo’s business. But what should be a luxury holiday turns into a misery of unhappy relationships and that’s even before they discover the body of the long-dead brother on the slopes. When they are joined by a bereaved brother, the ski rep Matt and the chalet manager Cameron, that misery turns into a nightmare of secrets, vengeance and murder.
As we descend into Winter there is something hugely enjoyable about chilly, snowy murder mysteries and The Chalet is a fine example. It has that classic Agatha Christie appeal – a murder and a small group of suspects, confined together in an evocative setting, each suspecting the other. Here we have a group of not very likeable people, removed from their usual habitat, their personalities strained by circumstances and by each other, while being waited on hand and foot. Their manners only exist on the surface, the veneer of being civilised on holiday together soon brushes off, all observed by the chalet staff. Catherine Cooper is an excellent observer of behaviour and it’s all extremely entertaining.
The novel moves between the events of the present day and those of 1998, when Will and Adam bring their girlfriends to the resort for a holiday. The past and present mirror each other in many ways but I found the past story much darker and even a little shocking. But from that comes the nightmare of the present.
The Chalet is an excellent puzzler. I didn’t work any of it out and I enjoyed where it took us. And I loved the setting in the Alps! It even made me want to go skiing again (which is quite incredible as when I went skiing years ago my instructor broke her leg – definitely off putting). It’s a very entertaining, exciting and well-written pageturner. I read The Chalet in three greedy gulps – unusual for me in these times. It is undoubtedly a very good read for these long, dark evenings.