The Chateau by Catherine Cooper

twisting | fast-paced | gripping

what it says on the cover …

They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out… 

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

PUBLISHED: 31st August 2021
SHELF: Thriller | Suspense | Mystery
AUTHOR: Catherine Cooper
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins UK
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook

Thank you to #NetGalley and @HarperCollinsUK / @HarperFiction / @fictionpubteam for this advance-proof kindle copy of #TheChateau by @catherinecooper

my review

I’ll hold my hands up now and confess I’m probably going about things in the wrong order … I’ve not yet had the opportunity to read Catherine Cooper’s highly praised debut novel – The Chalet.  Yes, I do have a copy.  Yes, I am a tad disorganised.  But with The Chateau’s publication date just days away, I was keen to try and get on the front foot for once!

The Chateau is a suspense-thriller with an underlying essence of mystery, all set in an enviably glamorous chateau in Mozène, France.  Well, it will be glamorous one day soon, if its new owners Aura and Nick Dorian have anything to do with it.  Right now it’s an ambitious fixer-upper.  And it’s all going to take place on camera, with a film crew from FrenchFancy following the young family’s tentative early steps in their new life away from London.

Following a very upscale halloween fancy dress party – complete with a grizzly murder – the prologue sets off at a brisk pace, tantalising me with the promise of a twisty and unpredictable story to come.  I adore suspense novels that kick off with a prologue that clearly occurs at some point midway through the story … it suggests that a hefty chunk of the chapters to come will tease their way towards this moment.  And can I guess at the whodunnit-and-why before the big reveal?

Well, in answer to that; no.  I didn’t guess who killed the poor chap at the party … that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book.  Definitely a case of ‘wrong-place wrong-time’. And probably the wrong outfit too … a grim reaper is a popular choice for fancy dress events, but if one of the several men who’ve made this sartorial faux pas is hated with a passion by another party guest, then that’s wildly unfortunate.

Once this initial murder has passed, the book settles into part one, with all its chapters narrated by Aura. Through her narrative it quickly becomes clear that her marriage to Nick is rocky, and although she has lofty, organic-mother ideals about her approach to raising their two young sons – Sorrel and Bay – her words don’t really align to her behaviours, making her difficult to trust.  I’m not certain if this was an intention of the author’s or not, but I really did not warm to this woman … but I hand-on-heart tried.  She’s the main protagonist after all, and it felt odd to have a central character so difficult to empathise with.  

Nick takes over the narration in part two, and frankly it was a relief to have break from Aura’s self-absorption.  Yes, she’s clearly been wronged in some way by Nick, but her infuriatingly repetitive mentionitis throughout the first third of the book of ‘what happened in London’ was really starting to grate on me.  Nick’s chapters are narrated during the ten months prior to their move to France, with regular interruptions (important ones) from one of his pupils, Ella.  Between the two of them they enlighten the reader on the ‘what happened’, and whilst their accounts answer some of my questions, they raise new ones, such as ‘how do these threads connect with a mystery murder in France?’.

Aura and Nick effectively co-parent part three of the book, with their narrations sharing the storytelling from this point on … although, perhaps in keeping with her character, Aura does rather dominate! Whilst parts one and two had been more slow-burn suspense, in part three the tension escalates as non-central characters step closer to centre stage. In fact, as the chapters race towards their dramatic conclusion, I found myself having to suspend disbelief somewhat at their improbable extravagance.  You see, it’s not just me who wasn’t that keen on Aura and Nick; over the course of the book they’ve made more than one enemy between them, and during those final chapters revenge is served chillingly cold.

The dual timeline allowed both main characters to introduce themselves to the reader – for better or worse – whilst leading us by the hand towards a conclusion that efficiently tied together the unanswered questions from earlier chapters.  However, whilst I am a fan of this format, I’m a bit pedantic about chapter headings; i.e. when the date changes, please please please signal this to the reader.  It was going so well in parts one and two, but in part three (set in the present day) I was thrown by the sudden inclusion of chapters from Ella which occurred ten months previously … no title indiction of this to signpost the shift, just the character’s name.

The Chateau is a fast-paced and compelling thriller. The author has created a very vivid setting, with scenes and locations so clearly and elegantly rendered that I could quite easily imagine myself to be there.  Likewise, her characters are well formed, well voiced, and populate the pages with an enjoyable theatricality that framed their individual personalities and peccadillos to great effect. This is a real page-turner that I romped through rather quickly … and yes, I’ve now set my sights firmly on The Chalet.


author bio

Catherine is a freelance journalist and avid thriller reader, having discovered Agatha Christie novels as a child. This has inspired her writing career, with her first suspense-thriller, The Chalet, being published in October 2020. The Chateau is her second novel. Catherine has also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

Ever since she learned to ski on a school trip at the age of 14, Catherine has loved the sport. In 2009 she and her husband moved to the South of France with their two teenage children so they could indulge their passion for the snowy slopes, and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

Other than skiing and reading, Catherine loves travelling, theme parks (the photo here was taken on a rollercoaster in Spain), and by her own admission she spends far too much time on social media. Some of her other favourite things include Alan Partridge, sparkly flip flops and salt and vinegar crisps.

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