Book review: The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

This has been a long awaited read! It was a Christmas present that due to lockdown, I’ve only just received. What a delicious scenario: a group of people staying in a French ski chalet when a body’s discovered from an incident twenty years ago that somehow links them all.

In the French Alps, two young man ski into a blizzard but only one returns. No one knows what really happened that day on the slopes – and the body isn’t found. Twenty years later, four people connected to the missing man find themselves in the same luxury ski resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting. Someone knows what happened out in the snow. And someone will pay.

Despite reading this book in mild spring weather, I was transported to the beautiful but treacherous setting and fully immersed in the lives of the thoroughly unpleasant characters.

The story’s told in two timelines – pre-pandemic January 2020, and 1998 when the accident happened.

The multiple narrators include ski guide Cameron who in 1998, takes the two men on their ill-fated adventure down the couloir with his business partner, Andy. Cameron resents his plummy clients with their overblown confidence in their skiing capabilities. He can’t be bothered to learn their names, leaving the niceties to Andy. “I’m just here for the mountains; as far as I’m concerned, the clients are a necessary evil.”

In 2020, event manager Ria’s picked the resort’s most luxurious chalet for her and husband Hugo to stay in with another couple – Simon (overweight, red-faced, booming voice), his dutiful wife Cass (sweet but dull, and young enough to be his daughter), their baby Inigo and nanny, Sarah who’s secretive about her past. Hugo desperately hopes this trip will win Simon over to invest in his company, Redbush Holidays.

They’re looked after by super chalet girl Millie, and resort rep Matt.

Ria’s clearly unhappy in the marriage and despises her husband’s sycophantic behaviour around Simon, while Hugo’s embarrassed by Ria’s drunken and flirtatious behaviour and reluctance to get pregnant. Simon’s wife Cass is unhappy to discover that Simon has stayed in the chalet in the past with another girl.

And then the body’s discovered.

Viewpoints from the 1998 ski trip include Adam and Will, the brothers, and Louisa, Will’s girlfriend who’s from a less privileged background and feels an outsider.

There’s another, anonymous, narrator whose heartbreaking story kept me intrigued as we headed towards a catastrophic climax.

So yes, this late Christmas present was absolutely worth waiting for! It’s an exhilarating black run read that schusses and slaloms along with some audacious twists and tricks. I’d recommend it to fans of locked room mysteries in spectacular settings, especially One By One by Ruth Ware.

It’s published by HarperCollins and is available here

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