Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend. It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered. But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…
Loved this! First of all: love the cover ❤ (M.A. Bennett’s second book The Island looks just as good.) Second of all, I was totally gripped by STAGS from the very beginning.
Our narrator is Greer and I loved her. Her internal monologue is endearing and funny and vulnerable. I liked her frequent film references. She starts – with the benefit of hindsight – by telling us some of the bad things that have happened, so you feel constantly on edge with a sense of foreboding: you know it’s not going to be good but you remain in the dark about exactly how things are going to pan out. Greer’s story is compelling and you really feel for her and her peers.
There are beautiful descriptions within that bring to life the school and the house and the surrounding countryside. It was easy to picture the locations and the various characters. Some of the passages were uncomfortable to read but were not gratuitous and were necessary for the plot.
I think I felt every emotion while reading this book: anxious, appalled, pitying, horrified and angry, but there were also some key points when I wanted to punch the air and cheer. The climax to the events was good, but the final twist in the tale left me literally open-mouthed. Brilliant stuff!
Thank you to NetGalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC of STAGS.