Seven friends gather at an old Scottish castle for a hen weekend but get rather more than they bargain for when one of their number seeks revenge for events of the past.
Author of Down by the Water, Elle Connel, is the pseudonym of writer, Lucy Ribchester, who seems to have adopted the name to distinguish between her historical fiction published as Ribchester, and this, her first foray into a contemporary thriller.
The castle is certainly beautifully described and as such delightfully eerie: “The darkness had a luxurious gloom to it, low lamps in puff-balls of bronze, their light absorbed by Jacobean panelling and jewel-coloured wallpaper in crimsons, peacock blues, emeralds and glossy browns.” The scene now set the reader can then try to get to grips with the characters – not easy with seven of them all seemingly taking a leading role alongside a supporting cast of other intriguing individuals.
It does not particularly help the reader that not one of the ‘hens’ are particularly likeable and seem to take great delight in each other’s drug-taking and drunken escapades. Fortunately, in part two of the story things get more interesting and one can start to piece together what may actually be happening aside from eating their way through a Fortnum & Mason hamper with alarming speed!
One of the characters, Bea, finds a diary which starts to reveal the secrets not just of the castle but also of some of the women she thought she knew so well.
As the book starts to draw to a close the reader braces for the planned revenge to be seen through to the end and although the plot may have at times been quite forced the reader is keen to get to some sort of conclusion and even sympathises with Tess, who, although largely unlikeable, has been carrying a dark secret for so long.
The moral of the story may be that so often none of us truly knows what somebody else is going through and to dig deeper than the surface if we are to form complete and true friendships.