Map of Blue Book Balloon

28 September 2022

#Blogtour #Review - The Hike by Susi Holliday

A distant, dark peak reflected in still water. Silhouetted against the sky, and reflected in the water, four figures.
The Hike
Susi Holliday
Thomas & Mercer, 1 October 2022
Available as: PB, 269pp, e, audio
Source: Advance e-copy
ISBN(PB): 9781542035347

Trapped and slowly falling apart...

I'm grateful to Susi and to Anne at Random Things Tours for an advance copy of The Hike to consider for review and for inviting me to take part in the blogtour for The Hike, which begins today.

I'm honoured to be starting things off, as the four participants in this particular ill-fated expedition in Switzerland take their first steps on the mountain...

Susi Holliday really is the queen of a certain unsettling subgenre - part Gothic, part crime - where a group comes to grief amidst the bracing air and stirring sights of the Great Outdoors. I'm reminded of Sherlock Holmes's dark attitude to the countryside, expressed during The Adventure of the Copper Beeches: 'It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside...' True, but somebody has to take the darkness there, don't they?

It's clear from the outset that has happened, as two bruised and battered walkers stagger into a pretty little Swiss town, an unwelcome problem for police captain Thierry Pigalle on a Sunday when he'd looked forward to a leisurely lunch with his wife. But it's only as Holliday begins to give us the story of sisters Cat and Ginny and their husbands, Paul and Tristan, that we realise just how much sin the four have carried with them into the Swiss mountains. 

As that becomes clear, you may feel, like me, that these have to be four of the most unpleasant people to grace recent crime fiction! But don't let that put you off - Holliday knows how to weave a tale, and she makes it compelling despite that edge of dislike, maybe even, to a degree, because of it. We want to understand why the four are so unpleasant to each other. We want to understand how they can live with what they've done, or, for some, with what they plan to do. We want to understand, perhaps most of all, how they imagine they can go on with their lives after this is all over. Underpinning some of the plans that unfold is a level of self-delusion perhaps even approaching psychopathy.

And scariest of all - you may come to believe that some members of this group may be capable of getting way with it.

It's a twisty narrative in which layers and layers of bad intentions, selfishness, sexual incontinence, greed and lack of any visible moral framework set Cat, Ginny, Paul and Tristan for a deadly march through those beautiful mountains. Perhaps, actually, comparisons shouldn't be with Conan Doyle or Christie but with William Golding, with overtones of Lord of the Flies once everyone is away from their pesky mobile phones and no help can be caught? But there are mysteries here, too, with the actions of this little group worth following closely - even if you observe the wheels in motion, though, I'm not sure you'll anticipate just what direction they may take things in.

Throughout, Holliday maintains a strong degree of psychological plausibility - these may be unpleasant characters, not people to share a train carriage with, but they are well-realised, rounded, believable unpleasant characters whether they are being petty, grasping, lustful, spiteful or - just occasionally - vulnerable and trusting. There's also a taut, threatening atmosphere - with another figure apparently stalking the group - in which anything might happen whether from accident, malice, shifting alliances or cold, deep-laid plot.

All in all, great fun, and the payoff of those characters being so nasty is that I couldn't feel too bad when anything nasty happened to any of the four (though I did feel for Pigalle, who has his Sunday thoroughly spoiled).

For more information about The Hike, see the author's website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below. 

You can buy The Hike from Amazon here.