Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 January 2021 from Headline
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.
This is the perfect time of year to read Shiver and given that it is that most enjoyable of things – a locked room mystery, it seems very fitting for our #lockdown reading, too! Told in alternate chapters – harking back 10 years and in the present day, it tells the story of six friends who were once highly competitive snowboarders, vying for prizes and sponsors until one of them disappeared.
Since then, their lives have taken different paths and ten years later each receives an invitation to return to the Alpine Lodge in Le Rocher, where they were last all together. Our storyteller is Milla and it is her first person perspective that guides us through the story of both past and present. But even as she does so, we are aware that we may not be getting the whole truth….how reliable a narrator is Milla?
The friends compete in an especially dangerous Winter Olympic sport – the Half Pipe – a U-shaped high-sided ramp or runway used in snowboarding, where any loss of focus can mean disaster and serious injury or worse. With walls of ice as high as 22ft and snowboarders competing to do the highest jumps, twists and turns, competitors have to be at the top of their game.
Milla had not really wanted to come back to Le Rocher but she has always regretted not becoming closer to Curtis, Saskia’s brother and a man for whom she has always harboured strong feelings. And this invitation has come from Curtis, just weeks after Saskia has been declared legally dead after going missing in the Alps that last time, ten years ago. So she understands his need to say goodbye and wants to be there for him.
But when she gets there, it is only to find that each of the five has received an invitation purportedly from the one who would most make them want to attend, yet none of them will confess to sending any invitation at all. And so the cat and mouse games begin..
Shiver paints a fascinating picture of the cut and thrust world of professional snowboarding and the athletes who compete in it. The sheer threat of taking on the Half Pipe every day and risking life and limb makes them intense and focussed, living life to the max against the cold, pristine white Alps – an amazing backdrop for this story to play out on. Reynolds own experience makes this element of the book sing with authenticity and the danger adds a real element of fascination to this exhilarating and polished read.
The Alpine Lodge, when they reach it, is devoid of staff and they are asked to give up their mobile phones before an ‘icebreaker’ session. And that’s where it all starts to go wrong.
Imagine that deserted place, winds whistling outside, a glacier waiting to claim them and your hairs will stand on end with echoes of The Shining in the back of your mind.
As these five friends look askance at each other, not knowing who to trust, wondering who invited them and why, danger is present in every room and corridor and with no-one trusting anyone else, it is inevitable that bad things are going to happen. And they do!
Verdict: Reynolds tells a great story and the past comes alive through Milla’s descriptions of what went before. She keeps the reader on tenterhooks, offering up suspects and cleverly laying clues only to have you second guess yourself as matters develop. A chilling and spine-tingling, page-turning read and an accomplished debut.
Allie Reynolds was once a freestyle snowboarder in the UK top ten at halfpipe. She spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. She’s had many jobs including nanny, barmaid, London primary school teacher, bookshop assistant and French teacher/translator. In 2003, she swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to Gold Coast Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years.Allie became a full-time writer in 2018. Her short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden and South Africa. She has two young children and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.