Catherine Cooper’s upcoming debut novel The Chalet is so gripping and compelling I couldn’t put it down, and I finished it in under 24 hours! This engrossing novel is set in the French Alps and unfolds around a body going missing on the ski slopes in 1998. Fast forward to 2018, and there are four guests staying in a chalet at the same ski resort, not realising that they’re intricately connected to the missing body and trapped amongst a murder plot.
From the end of the first chapter I was hooked into the plot and mesmerised by the vivid detail of the setting – it’s amazing to see how Cooper has drawn memory and appreciation from her own experiences on the ski slopes in the French Alps as the setting is so detailed and perfectly described. Her experience as a journalist specialising in travel and as an avid skier herself shines through the descriptions on the page. The fact that the book begins going back and forth between the past and the present with the perspectives of Cameron and Ria is exciting, I found myself continuously asking this series of questions: ‘What is the connection?’; ‘Do these two characters know each other?’; ‘What’s going to happen?’. Those questions became more pressing and continued to grow along with the many additional perspectives from other characters from both the past and present as we now had stories from Hugo, Louisa, Will, Adam and a mysterious child’s perspective, who at first seems so detached from the main plot whilst at the same time seems so obviously involved. It was this multitude of perspectives from these characters that I thoroughly enjoyed along with the multiple ongoing storylines and plots – Cooper definitely succeeded in expressing individual intentions, emotions and experiences amongst her many characters.
The character I connected with the most was Louisa, the fact that she was a university student who desperately wanted to fit in with her boyfriend and his brother on their ski holiday was somewhat relatable as she struggled to learn to ski (I myself have no experience at all of skiing). I warmed to her quite quickly and I really felt sympathy for her as her life began to take a tragic turn – I think it is extremely important to mention that this book deals with a lot of adult themes other than murder which is something that should be taken into account by any reader to avoid any discomfort. These strong elements of tragedy spurred me on until the end: I had to know what happened; I had to know where each character ended up; I had to know how the characters were connected and how their stories weaved together.
The twisting turns of the plot and the intense gradual realisations of the truth were riveting and because of this, I literally couldn’t tear myself away from the book! Interestingly, thriller books are never my go-to, however, after reading this book I can say I have definitely changed my opinion and I look forward to reading more of this genre and style. The strong elements of adrenaline and tension orchestrated by Cooper made reading the book an encapsulating and enjoyable experience and I really look forward to Cooper’s second novel, The Retreat, which is being published in 2021.
I would hugely recommend this book to any reader who loves an absorbing thriller and thrives from an unexpected plot twist! Cooper has greatly used her experiences and knowledge to her advantage by writing an immersive and mesmerising novel. The Chalet is scheduled for publication in November 2020 and I really look forward to its reception as I unexpectedly became so engrossed in this novel and I think many other readers will too.
Words by Meg Shona Halpin-Webster