In a Dark, Dark Wood. I almost set it aside, but I was already 70 pages in and felt somewhat invested. Moreover, the premise had intrigued me and I truly did want to find out what was about to happen. Just wishing it hadn't taken so long to get to the crux of the matter and without the trashy behavior.
Leonora Shaw (known to her friends in the past as "Lee" but now going as "Nora") is shocked and perplexed when she is invited to a hen party (I'm guessing this is the British ritual where the bride-to-be gathers with several girlfriends for a last hurrah girl's weekend away) for her old best friend, Clare. She hasn't been in contact with Clare for a full decade, but is eager to know why Clare would want to invite her. Instead of firing off an e-mail to ask directly, she decides to attend the gathering.
Here's where the story got a bit off-track and into territory I was uncomfortable with. First off, there's a man in the party (sure, the guy is gay, but how does this work as a girl's weekend?). Secondly, they begin to party in what must be fairly standard behavior for such occasions: tequila shots, cocaine, and games of "I have never..." Frankly, the story could have been told just as effectively without those unsavory bits, but once again, perhaps the author felt inclined to include such behavior because that is what sells books these days. Who knows.
The premise remained interesting and I persevered. The small cast of characters form an unlikely group, completely unaware that they are not alone in their isolated house in the woods. Nora awakens in a hospital bed, attempting to piece together the events leading to that point. She remembers blood on her body, running frantically through the woods, encountering a car and having some sort of accident, but other details remain fuzzy.
The story is very similar to an Agatha Christie mystery - isolated house, small cast of characters, murder, endless possibilities of motives, and the intrigue of attempting to ferret out the truth. Although I didn't feel drawn to any of the characters and didn't really root for anyone in particular, I did think it was fairly good for a debut novel. I was eager to keep reading to find out what truly happened and who was responsible. I feel like I should have figured it all out long before I did. But, it left me hanging and reading at a frantic pace. I did have to suspend belief on several questionable links in the plot, but I was perfectly willing to do so. I liked it better than The Girl on the Train, but perhaps still would have liked a story written by Christie instead.