A group of old college friends (and their someones) are spending New Years together, a tradition leftover from their college days. This year, they’re spending it in a beautiful and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands. They arrive just before a blizzard seals them off from the outside world.
“On my good days, I persuade myself that I love these trees: their glossy needles, the cones that I collect to keep in bowls around the house, the warm green Christmas scent of the resin when you walk among them. On my bad days I decide they look funeral, like sinister black-cloaked sentinels.”
Isolated and alone, the friends realize they have grown apart, and past resentments bubble to the surface; then one of them is murdered. With access to the outside world cut off, they are trapped with a killer.
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
I don’t always enjoy multiple narrator stories. To be honest, I often start a new chapter and don’t notice whose perspective I’m reading. I get confused and have to backtrack to the chapter title to know. But, I did enjoy the 5 perspectives/ narrators in Lucy Foley’s “The Hunting Party.”
Heather: The manager of the lodge and an outside perspective to the group of frenemies. She has her own reasons for living in an isolated locale.
Doug: The gamekeeper of the lodge and another outside perspective to the group though he has a few run ins with them. He also has secrets he’s hiding from.
Emma: The SO of an original member that is desperate to impress and be considered part of the group. She organized this year’s trip and is a unique inside perspective to the group while still being an outsider.
Miranda: The Queen Bee of the group, and always the center of attention. She is desperate to keep everything and everyone the same as it was in college.
Katie: Miranda’s best friend since childhood and the wallflower of the group. She’s another inside perspective, but one that’s ready to move on from her college days….and her friends.
I also LOVED the very Agatha Christiesque setting: Isolated place, only a small set of people that could be the killer, very “And Then There Were None” feels. I also loved, and respected, Lucy Foley’s ability to keep the identities of the killer and the victim under wraps for a large chunk of the story, revealing small details and throwing out red herrings along the way. I’m very excited to read her newest novel, “The Guest List” that takes place on an island, another closed-room mystery.
Since the story takes place at a very expensive and exclusive Scottish estate in the highlands, I decided to make Millionaire Shortbread. It’s a Scottish shortbread cookie topped with a caramel type sauce and dark chocolate on top of that! I am a huge fan of shortbread and the Scots make some of the best in the world. I tried to make the most authentic recipe I could find and even made my own golden syrup because my local grocery doesn’t have it. Pro Tip: it was super easy!
I worked on these cookies while trying to pack for a trip to see my family. (It had been a year since I saw them last so I was excited.) Needless to say I was distracted and things went wrong pretty fast. The caramel stuff, that requires constant stirring while heating to a certain temp, burned! I swear I stirred the entire time. And, I didn’t have the ingredients or the time to make it again so I did what any self respecting, slightly stressed person does, and I gave up. I figured I’d come up with something else when I got back. But I had to let the caramel cool before I could toss it and luckily, I decided to taste it. It was good. I mean REAL GOOD. No burnt flavor at all! So I used it and quickly put it all together.
But now I had a giant pan of cookies…. and we were leaving. So I did the only reasonable thing and packed it in Tupperware and put it in my carryon bag. Fast-forward a couple hours to the airport security line. TSA saw it on the x-ray and pulled it aside. They carefully opened it. They were gloved. They looked at the Tupperware, and swabbed it and the bag and ran a residue test. “It’s cookies,” I offered. But they still waited for the residue test results.
Eventually they zipped it back up and handed it back to me. I think that caramel filling looked pretty strange on the TSA screen! So here’s the recipe I used and here’s the link to it. I’ve also linked the shortbread and golden syrup recipes below.
Scottish Millionaire Shortbread
1 batch Homemade Scottish Shortbread fully cooled (click link for recipe)
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
½ c unsalted butter
¼ c brown sugar
2 Tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Homemade (click link for recipe)
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz quality dark or milk chocolate
- Bake shortbread in 8×8 or 9×9 pan.
- Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium until melted, stirring regularly. Continue to simmer until the mixture has thickened and is golden, 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When you run a spoon down the middle it should leave an empty trail along the saucepan. The caramel mixture is done when it reaches 225° F. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour the caramel mixture over the prepared Scottish shortbread and use a spoon to evenly smooth it out. Let it cool completely.
- Heat the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl until melted, stirring occasionally. Pour the chocolate over the firmed up caramel and smooth it evenly. Place it in the fridge to cool completely.
- Cut into squares (it’s easiest to do at room temperature) and enjoy!