SHIVER by Allie Reynolds (Hachette, 27 January 2021)
Allie Reynolds’ sparkling Shiver sets a high opening standard for debut crime novels in 2021.
Set in an isolated ski lodge high up in the French Alps, Allie provides an enjoyable and exciting twist on the classic crime plot of a group of characters, all with a bag full of old secrets, under threat from an unknown source in a remote location.
It is with some reluctance that Milla accepts an invitation to a reunion in the cosy Alp resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, but she is keen to see the charismatic Curtis one more time. She has not seen Curtis, or the other three invitees, since the tragic events ten years ago when the beautiful Saskia went missing during the finals of the snowboarding championships. When they get to the lodge they find it deserted and their only way back down the mountain closed off. A series of nasty events open up old wounds and they soon realise that they do not know who has invited them there, or for what purpose. With a snowstorm approaching, and old secrets coming to the surface, it does not appear that the reunion will end well.
This is a very accomplished debut novel that quickly draws you in and keeps you interested and guessing all the way to the final dark twist. Allie makes good use of the alternating storyline, between the present and the events ten years ago, to ratchet up the suspense and the book steadily twists its way through several good surprises.
The characters are nicely developed and the moving back and forth between the two timelines helps to flesh out them and allows the reader to see them grow and change. Milla is particularly well done, and she is an engagingly flawed narrator, who has her own parcel of secrets. She is a very nuanced character and Allie breathes real life into her and makes her interesting.
Allie is a former professional freestyle snowboarder who spent five years competing in the Alps, and elsewhere, before settling by the beach in Queensland, and she brings a good deal of credibility to the snowboarding scenes. She provides an interesting insider perspective on the atmosphere and tricks of a snowboard competition and skillfully portrays the various personalities involved. She also nicely captures the danger of being stuck in the snow and generates a good sense of foreboding as the snowstorm approaches the lodge.
This is a very enjoyable murder mystery thriller that skillfully goes through its paces and does a good job of keeping the reader unsure of what really happened ten years ago. I had some slight reservations about the ease of the conclusion, but not enough to stop me from thoroughly enjoying it.
Four stars out of five!
Shiver is released in Australia on 27 January 2021 and was also released in the United Kingdom and the United States in mid-January.
Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and Hachette for an advanced copy of the book.