The Invitation by A M Castle

Tregowan Castle stands isolated on a small island of the coast of Cornwall, the scene for a reunion between four university friends and their families. Rachel, the hostess, has invited her old friends to a reunion, to meet her new husband… and to reveal some secrets that her friends thought – and hoped – were long buried.

As her friends arrive, it rapidly becomes clear that there are thirteen guests at the gathering, hardly an ideal number for a Hallowe’en party. After one of the children goes missing, things take an even more serious turn – the lights go out and murder strikes. As the weather builds and strands the group on the island, they have to face the fact that one among them is a murderer, a killer who may well strike again.

So, we’re on an island for the third time this month. Seems to be somewhat in fashion at the moment, and I haven’t even looked at The Guest List by Lucy Foley yet.

We’re doing the multiple narrators thing again, but rather than oscillating between two voices, we get to hear from all four university friends along with two husbands, leaving the children and Rachel’s new family to keep their inner thoughts to themselves. It’s an effective tool, and all credit to the writer who differentiated the voices nicely that a) I never had to go back to check who was narrating that bit and b) despite a decent sized cast, it was easy to keep straight who was who.

There are some familiar narrative tricks here, with a prologue with an unnamed victim, before a jump back in time to some time earlier so we see the events leading up to the murder. Probably a good thing the prologue is there, as it takes just over half the book before we catch up with events. Again, it’s to the author’s credit that the tension builds effectively and this section, as it could easily have done, does not drag in the slightest.

It’s not a perfect book, though, as the murderer and their motivation didn’t seem grand enough to match the rest of the shenanigans going on. The reader also has to accept the rather over-the-top number of secrets being carried by, it seems, every member of the cast, and I didn’t really buy the character whose sole goal seemed to be expose every single secret just for the fun of it.

It was a fun read that kept me hooked, but it could have done with a stronger twist at the end.

The Invitation is released by HQ Digital on ebook on 26th March. Many thanks for the review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the review, and I hope this one didn’t contain the phrase ‘locked-island’ on its blurb? 😅 On a more serious note, there seems to be a recent flurry of thrillers utilising the trope of being snowbound or stranded: Lucy Foley, Shari Lapena, Ruth Ware, Tessa Wegert, Rachel Howzell Hall, Allie Reynold, Catherine Cooper… And comparisons with Agatha Christie abound in the blurbs for virtually all of these novels. But more often than not the comparison pertains to the setting, rather than the nature of the detection and the construction of the puzzle. Not that there’s anything wrong in writing a thriller rather than a puzzle – but it can be misleading for readers picking up a title and then discovering the plot isn’t quite what they are looking for. To be fair, Ruth Ware’s novel did attempt, if my memory serves me well, at classic-style clue-ing.

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