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The Long Weekend


The Long Weekend

A weekend getaway for a group ​​of old friends turns dark in Gilly Macmillan’s twisty new thriller, THE LONG WEEKEND. When the book begins, Ruth, Jayne and Emily are en route to a remote farm in Northumbria. Their husbands have all been unexpectedly delayed but have assured their wives that they’ll join them tomorrow. In the meantime, the women attempt to settle in at the perfectly isolated (and perfectly creepy) Dark Fell Barn, a rustic B&B run by Maggie Elliott and her husband, John.

Ruth, who is married to Toby, and Jayne, who is married t​​o Mark, have known each other for years. Emily is the newcomer to the group, married to Paul for just a few months. Edie, whose husband Rob drowned in a tragic accident a year earlier, is noticeably absent. Understandably, she isn’t up for the annual trip with the old crowd.

"Macmillan has chosen the setting for the first half of her novel well. The rugged, remote landscape is atmospheric, unsettling and increasingly claustrophobic.... [T]his is an eminently readable page-turner."

Like any group of old friends, this one has history. Edie, Mark and Toby were students at the same boarding school where Paul was a rugby coach. None of them fit in, and as a result, they developed an “intimate…almost impenetrable” bond. The other women have been brought into the fold through their marriages. But even after years with their husbands, they still sometimes feel like outsiders. Nor have they become BFFs themselves, preferring to keep each other at arm’s length.

By the time the women arrive at the farm, things are already tense. New mom Ruth feels guilty about leaving her son; she’s already thinking about the drink she needs to take the edge off. Emily feels out of place and wary of the other women; she suspects they think of her as “vacuous and stupid.” Jayne, a former intelligence operative, is anxious following a fight with Mark and trying to hold the group together.

But holding things together becomes difficult after John drops them off at the barn, where they discover a chilling letter waiting for them. “I didn’t come along because I know I’m not welcome…. By the time you read this, I will have killed one of your husbands,” it reads. It’s from Edie.

Could Mark, Toby and Paul really be in danger? Or is this just a cruel joke from Edie, who has a long history of pulling nasty pranks? There’s no way to know, as cell service at the barn is nonexistent. As a storm descends, Ruth, Emily and Jayne start to unravel, as each reflects on past conflicts and betrayals that could make their husband Edie’s victim.

Macmillan has chosen the setting for the first half of her novel well. The rugged, remote landscape is atmospheric, unsettling and increasingly claustrophobic. As Emily observes, it’s like a place out of a terrifying fairy tale. So it’s somewhat disappointing that in the book’s second half, she leaves the spooky peaks of northern England behind for less memorable locales. But she makes up for the change of scenery with a sequence of unexpected and propulsive twists that prove none of these characters are exactly who they initially seem to be. Shifting perspectives --- including sections told from the point of view of a character whose identity is withheld until late in the book --- will keep readers guessing as to who’s really behind the letter and the crimes that follow.

The brisk pacing is a plus, as there’s little time to linger on the less well-developed elements of the plot and characters. Some readers might wish Macmillan had spent a little more time fleshing out her villain’s motivations or find themselves wondering how ​​one person fails to see the truth about their marriage. A compelling subplot involving two characters ends up being dropped relatively early on. Ultimately, though, this is an eminently readable page-turner.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on April 1, 2022

The Long Weekend
by Gilly Macmillan