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The Search Party

the most gripping and unputdownable crime thriller of 2024

About The Book

‘Hannah Richell's The Search Party is a compelling thriller told with real emotional insight and depth. An absolute page-turner!’ Lucy Clarke

Five old friends.

One glamping weekend.
A storm that will change everything.

Max and Annie Kingsley have left the London rat race to set up a glamping site in the wilds of Cornwall. They invite old university friends – TV star Dominic, doctor and new mum Kira, and free-spirited Jim and Suze – and their children for a trial weekend but the reunion quickly veers off-course.
First, there’s The Incident around the campfire on the first night. The following afternoon, a storm quickly develops off the rugged North Coast. When one of their group goes missing, all hell breaks loose. And as the winds batter the bell-tents, emotions run high and tension mounts for all the characters.
Who is lying in hospital, who has gone missing and who is the body on the beach below the cliffs . . .?

Gripping, cleverly structured and brimming with secrets and lies, this is a masterclass in narrative tension and a chilling exploration of the ways in which aspiration and anxiety collide. It will keep you guessing until the last page.

'In this compelling, beautifully-observed story of a Cornish glamping trip gone spectacularly wrong, Hannah Richell never lets up with the tension and suspense. This is a best-in-class family thriller you'll read in one sitting’ Kate Riordan, author of Heatwave


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. PROLOGUE
The girl stands in the grey morning light, her feet perched at the crumbling cliff edge. Below her, waves smash against jagged rocks, granite shards rising like decaying teeth from the foaming sea. At her back are fear and despair, and his words, urging her on.
She tries to distract herself with the details around her. The roar of the ocean. The gusting wind ripping at the bracken. The small, white flowers growing at her feet. The loud, too- fast thump of her heart. Only it’s impossible to focus; she can’t seem to fix anything in her mind. Nothing can compete with his voice – all his ugly words bearing down on her. Do it, he says. What are you waiting for?
The ledge shifts beneath her toes. A fragment of earth crumbles and falls, vanishing into the swirling water far below. Carried on the wind, a bird cry rises high and mournful. She lifts her gaze and sees a gull turn in the sky above. Free.
Do it now. His voice is louder, closer. Goosebumps rise as if his words curl through the air and graze the back of her neck. What are you waiting for?
There is no escape. Nowhere else to go.
She closes her eyes and unfurls her arms, stretching them wide as if she too has wings to rise and join the bird hovering above. With a final breath, she launches out into the void. Fall or fly – she no longer cares.
Sunday afternoon
He has no idea how long he’s been sitting there. There’s no clock in the room, just a table, three chairs and a single, narrow window set high into the wall – too high to offer anything but a glimpse of the blank grey sky outside. It could have been twenty minutes since the police ushered him in and asked him to ‘wait here, please’; it could have been far longer. Dominic knows in moments of heightened stress that seconds can feel like minutes and minutes like hours, though the vending machine cup of tea someone brought him cooled ages ago. He also knows that every time he thinks about what might be happening outside this room, he feels a painful constriction in his chest, a tight band pressing vice- like against his lungs, making breathing hard.
He would be more help out there. Not shut away in a hospital consulting room, sitting in his damp clothing, waiting to answer questions – questions he’s certain he won’t have the answers to. But the two detectives had been insistent – he was to assist with their enquiries. Almost, he thinks, as if they suspect him of something.
The door opens and Dominic springs from his chair.
‘Any news?’ he asks, his eyes darting from the lead police detective in her grey suit to her burly, blond colleague just behind.
‘Nothing yet I’m afraid, Mr Davies,’ she says. ‘Take a seat please.’
Dominic hesitates. The last thing he wants to do is sit. ‘I think I’d be more use—’
The detective raises her hand. ‘We’ve got a team scouring the site now. As soon as we know anything – anything at all – we’ll be sure to let you know. Right now, Mr Davies, we need you to take us through everything you can remember.’ She gestures towards his chair, before pulling out her own with a screech, slapping a thin, cardboard file on the table between them. The second officer takes his seat, his huge frame swamping the small plastic chair. He opens a notebook and uncaps a pen.
Dominic eyes the chair with frustration. He wants action and consequences, not talking and note- taking, but sensing the resolve rising off the female detective, he takes the seat.
Lawson, he remembers. DI Sue Lawson. She’d introduced herself earlier. Her younger colleague, the rosy- cheeked young man with the bleach- blond hair and shoulders that would be better suited to a muddy rugby shirt than a starched police uniform, is Barrett. No, Barnett. DC Barnett.
Lawson nods and Barnett starts the recording device resting on the table between them.
‘To reiterate,’ states Barnett, clearing his throat, ‘your participation in this interview is entirely voluntary. You can leave at any time, though of course,’ he adds, ‘the more information we can gather about the weekend’s events, the more successful we are likely to be with our investigation.’
‘I’ve already told you,’ says Dominic, ‘it’s not me you need to talk to. It’s that kid. He’s got something to do with it, I know it.’
Another nod from Lawson. ‘As I said, we’ll be talking to everyone involved.’
‘They’re always making excuses for him, but trust me, there’s something wrong with that boy.’
‘Mr Davies,’ DI Lawson leans forward and fixes him with her level gaze, ‘I hear your concerns. I know how worried you must be.’ Her eyes, he notices, are an intriguing colour, grey like sea pebbles, an almost perfect match for the streak running through her short, dark hair. ‘But I’m afraid we do urgently require your assistance. We’d be grateful for your full cooperation.’
There’s a part of Dominic that can’t help wondering if they are deriving some small pleasure from this. It can’t be every day they get to interview someone off the telly. This whole incident will no doubt provide a flutter of excitement at the station. Guess who we had in the chair today. God forbid this should reach the press. He should probably call Barry. Give him the heads- up in case the tabloids come sniffing for another salacious Dominic Davies story. They’d certainly raked him over the coals a few years back, around the time of his divorce. He frowns, glancing between the two detectives. ‘Do I need to call my lawyer?’
‘Would you like legal representation?’ Barnett glances up from his notepad, pen poised.
It’s like falling into one of those gritty crime dramas, Dominic thinks, the kind Tanya loves to watch on a Sunday night, curled up on the sofa in her pyjamas with a glass of wine in her hand and her phone on her lap. He’s always thought them silly – overblown and too predictable – and yet here he sits, in an airless interview room with a recording device on the table between them, blinking its red light like an evil eye. ‘No,’ he says, ‘of course I don’t need my lawyer. Let’s just get on with it.’ He folds his arms across his chest. ‘What do you want to know?’
Lawson leans back in her seat and nods again at Barnett to continue.
‘It was a reunion amongst friends? Four families meeting up for the May Day weekend?’
Barnett checks back through his notes. ‘And there were fifteen in your party?’
Dominic considers this for a moment, counting in his head. ‘Well . . . we were sixteen, if you include the baby.’ He reaches for the plastic cup in front of him before remembering it’s cold and undrinkable. At the sight of the brown film floating on its surface, he slides the cup away.
‘You were all invited to stay at Wildernest?’ Barnett is consulting his notes again. ‘The site belonging to Max and Annie Kingsley, located out beyond the Cape, near Morvoren Point?’
‘That’s right. I’d just wrapped filming on the latest series of the show, so it was good timing. Star Search,’ he adds. You’ve probably seen it.’
Barnett nods but the female detective maintains her inscrutable stare. Dominic can’t hide his smile. He knows her type. Wants to pretend she’s above reality TV. Doesn’t like to admit she’s one of the ten million viewers tuning in religiously each week, cheering on her favourite contestants, texting her votes.
‘No matter,’ he says, with a small wave. ‘Max and Annie had invited us for the bank holiday to road- test their new “glamping” business.’ He lifts his hands and emphasizes the apostrophes. ‘You know the sort of thing. All the rage: save- the- planet, sustainable eco- tourism. Max’s dream.’
‘I understand the Kingsleys had relocated to Cornwall last year, with their son?’
He nods. ‘To tell you the truth, none of us quite believed it when they announced they were leaving London. We were supportive, of course. You have to be, don’t you? It’s not exactly the done thing to tell your friends that you think they’re making a terrible mistake.’
‘Why did you think it a mistake?’
Dominic lets out a sharp laugh. ‘They’d spent years building up their architectural firm, making it a success. Only last year they won a prestigious RIBA award for the “Grand Designs”- style makeover I commissioned from them on my pad. It was a big deal. It got a lot of press.’ He looks at the officers in turn, but Lawson still refuses to give an inch. ‘Anyway, they did a great job. Knocked out the back of the entire house and built on a huge glass extension. Very cool. Very minimal. But it wasn’t just the fact they were giving up successful careers,’ he adds. ‘They had their own place, right on Clapham Common . . . a good school for Kip . . . London at their feet, and they were throwing it all away to move to the sticks to do what?’ He throws them both an incredulous look. ‘Set up a camping business?’ Dominic shakes his head. ‘It seemed madness to me. But I suppose they had form for springing big life decisions on us all.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Well, the kid. The adoption.’
‘By “kid”, you mean their son, Kip?’
He nods, glancing from one police officer to the other, waiting for them to delve further, but Lawson, to his irritation, doesn’t bite. ‘How about you take us back to Friday. I gather you set out from Hertfordshire around lunchtime?’
‘Yes, we left Harpenden at one.’ ‘We being . . .?’ ‘My wife Tanya and my kids, Scarlet, Felix and Phoebe.’ Dominic stretches his legs out in front of him, notices the rip in his trousers and the mud- caked hems, and quickly folds them back again.
‘Everyone was happy about the trip?’
He shrugs. ‘I suppose there was some resistance, but I really don’t see how that’s relevant.’
Lawson eyes him. ‘We’re simply trying to build a clear picture of the weekend. Given the trauma you’ve all faced and the questions that still need to be answered, we need to be as thorough as possible.
‘Personally, I thought the invitation sounded fun,’ he says, addressing Lawson, holding her gaze. ‘After the pressures of filming, I was looking forward to some downtime with old friends, a long weekend in the great outdoors. I assumed the kids would love it too, but you know how it is with teenagers these days.’ He glances between them. ‘The merest hint of a few hours without Wi- Fi and panic sets in.’
DI Lawson nods. ‘Carry on, Mr Davies. This is helpful.’
Dominic narrows his eyes. ‘You said you’re talking to everyone?’
She nods again. ‘We’ve sent an officer to the farmhouse. Family Liaison.’
‘Good,’ says Dominic. He can’t help wondering what the others will say, how their stories might intersect, how their words might corroborate or contradict. All he can hope for, he supposes, is that when all is said and done, twenty years of friendship still counts for something. ‘Good,’ he says again, raising himself in his chair, tilting his chin, flexing his hands out of the tight fists he hadn’t realized he’d formed, ‘because I’m sure you’ll find we all did things this weekend that we regret.’
DI Lawson maintains her level stare, those impenetrable grey eyes boring into him. Dominic is annoyed to find he is the first to look away.

About The Author

Photograph by Lucy Williams

Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham, she worked in the book publishing and film industries in both London and Sydney. She is a dual citizen of Great Britain and Australia, and currently lives in the South West of England with her family. Richell is the author of international bestsellers Secrets of the Tides (2012), The Shadow Year (2014), The Peacock Summer (2019) and The River Home (2020). Her work has been translated into twenty-one languages.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (January 18, 2024)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781398527973

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Raves and Reviews

‘Hannah Richell's The Search Party is a compelling thriller told with real emotional insight and depth. It was a pleasure to be transported to the wildest edge of Cornwall and have a ringside seat as a group of old friends are pushed to their absolute limits. An absolute page-turner!’

– Lucy Clarke

'In this compelling, beautifully-observed story of a Cornish glamping trip gone spectacularly wrong, Hannah Richell never lets up with the tension and suspense. This is a best-in-class family thriller you'll read in one sitting’

– Kate Riordan, author of Heatwave

'Everything about this Cornish glamping thriller hooked me from the off. An atmospheric and ever-twisting read that's full of compassion and emotional intelligence. I loved it'

– Emylia Hall

'Darkly atmospheric and so clever, with complex characters and a building sense of dread that makes this a deliciously enticing, one-sitting read’

– Cressida McLaughlin

‘Living the dream becomes a living nightmare. Richell’s tense new destination thriller will make you wish you weren’t here as friendships crumble and families fall apart on a glamping weekend gone wrong. A gripping and twisty plot laced with Richell’s trademark deft feel for family dynamics sees the pages practically turn themselves'

– Kate Lord Brown

The Search Party pitches you forward from the first page, sending you rushing headlong towards its thrilling conclusion. I loved this novel for its multifaceted, multi-voiced take on a single weekend, and a satisfying and emotionally honest portrayal of what we see in others, and ourselves. Hannah Richell’s first foray into the thriller genre is simply not to be missed!’

– Hayley Scrivenor, bestselling author of Dirt Town

‘If you read just one thriller this year, make it The Search Party. I couldn’t put it down’

– Mark Brandi, bestselling author of Wimmera

The Search Party is a dexterous blend of best and worst case scenarios, a chillingly relatable journey into the unexpected. With her cast of expertly crafted characters, evocative setting and taut prose, Richell has written a standout page-turner, thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Fans of Lucy Foley and Sarah Pearse will not want to miss this.’

– Anna Downes, bestselling author of The Safe Place

‘Hannah Richell was born to write thrillers. Twisty and adrenaline fuelled, I devoured this whip-smart novel set against a backdrop of remote Cornish cliffs. All the ingredients I love in a thriller – jealousy, revenge, lust and anger – simmer ominously beneath the surface before coming explosively to the fore. I was in equal parts agonised and satisfied when I turned the final page. Trust me, you will not be able to put this book down!’

– Ali Lowe, bestselling author of The Running Club

‘You expect drama when old friends get together, but this is next level! The Search Party layers sharp observations of friendship and family dynamics over ever-increasing tension and danger. Richell adeptly delivers multiple points of view and timelines, propelling the reader through the pages, screaming the questions: who died? And who did it?’

– Michelle Prak, author of The Rush

‘Every page of this gripping and atmospheric crime novel crackles with tension. Hannah Richell’s evocative writing brings to life the wilds of the North Cornwall coast, an isolated and formidable landscape that pits four lifelong friends and their families against one another, forcing their secrets to the fore if they want to survive. The clever twists kept me guessing until the end. I devoured every word of this brilliant, emotionally-charged story. A rock solid five star read!’

– Rae Cairns, author of Dying To Know

‘An unputdownable thriller with a cracking cast of characters that will have you gripped until the very last page. Engrossing and compelling, I will be recommending The Search Party to everyone!’

– Kate Gray, author of The Honeymoon

‘Such a clever, compelling and atmospheric read. So many secrets and stories to unravel. A twisted take on the glamping weekend with friends. I stayed up late to discover how the story would end. Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley’

– CD Major, author of The Other Girl

‘A glamping weekend for old friends on the rugged Cornish coast devolves into mayhem and murder in this deliciously sinuous thriller brimming with atmosphere. Hannah Richell is masterful, deploying white-knuckle pacing, pitch-perfect prose, and characters whose emotional depth is fully mined, making the twists feel maximally earned and resonant. Gripping, clever, and as enjoyable to curl up with as a Christie -- I inhaled it in a day!’

– Jaclyn Goldis, author of The Chateau

‘I was absolutely gripped. Apart from confirming my view that camping is best left to kids, I was completely caught up and really didn't see the final reveal coming. The tension builds so exquisitely that I simply couldn't stop reading. Also beautifully drawn characters who are all too real and often all too suspicious. Terrific’

– Fanny Blake

'What a gripping read! Such a compelling mystery, and so cleverly plotted it kept me up late, flipping the pages to find out what had happened’

– Kate Webb, author of Stay Buried

‘Haunting and atmospheric from the very first page, The Search Party is an irresistible read. Simmering tensions, family drama, and high-stakes mysteries combine to create the perfect storm of bingeworthy suspense’

– Megan Collins, author of Thicker Than Water and The Family Plot

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