reviewed by Jimmy Hoke
Shiver chills. In Allie Reynolds’s debut novel, five British ex-snowboarders return to Le Rocher, a competitive snowboarding resort tucked away in the French Alps. This is not quite a reunion of friends: it is more of the recollection of a crew forged together by season spent together where they bonded as a result of their rivalries, romances, and companionships.
Milla, the novel’s narrator, has not returned to Le Rocher—or seen her former companions—for ten years, when she left the village and the world of competitive snowboarding. Their reunion is immediately tinged with mystery. When they arrive, everyone claims Milla invited them there: but Milla herself was invited by her longtime crush, Curtis. No one will admit to having arranged the weekend. Seemingly not coincidentally, Saskia—Curtis’s sister and Milla’s biggest rival—has just been declared legally dead, after having been missing since Milla left Le Rocher ten years ago.
The plot thickens when the five friends reach the remote mountain lodge and find directions for an Icebreaker game, in which each person writes down an anonymous secret. But when they read them aloud, they’re not the cards they put in the box: the first three make claims to sexual liaisons among the group; the fourth claims to know where Saskia is; the final reads: I killed Saskia. The stage is set for a weekend thriller, framed by the mysteries: what happened to Saskia? Who is responsible for her disappearance/death? Who arranged this weekend visit? And why is their identity secret?
Reynolds jumps between this chilling present and Milla’s recounting of her winter in Le Rocher ten years prior. The time jumping adds to the book’s suspense, as the mysteries and rivals in the past are just as exciting as the present. We learn each character’s flaws and backstory, and we see the romances and rivalries build up. Most notably, the competitive rivalry between Saskia and Milla drives everything that happened ten years ago. Both narratives build to the book’s ending, as the two stories weave together to reveal an intricate plot from start to finish.
Milla is a captivating narrator throughout the story. She doesn’t just convey the terror of the mysterious conditions: she is also relatable as she navigates her feelings toward her former friends, rivals, and lovers. Of course, the fact that one of them may be a killer—and may be actively trying to kill the rest of them—complicates her feelings. But we can also understand her frustrations, especially as she bristles at the men’s constant insistence on protecting her. They tell her not to do the same things they are doing, even though their actions are usually equally inadvisable for all of them at their age and in the current situation.
What makes Milla most relatable is her recounting of her past interactions with these other characters. With hindsight, she admits how she was flawed then—but also discovers how she still acts on some of those flaws. Even when we root for her to do something different, we can understand why she makes her decisions. Ultimately, Milla comes across as a real human, even if she is in the midst of a pretty inhuman and unlikely scenario.
Like the crevasses in Le Rocher’s glacier, readers fall into this chiller. Reynolds’s writing gives off a horror vibe as the characters keep making decisions that we (and maybe they too) know are just going to endanger them further. There’s plenty of mystery that grabs the mind as we attempt to unravel the different strands of stories and guess what could have happened. The mystery changes as quickly as a reader can guess, leaving them excited for more details, and the plot moves as quickly as we want to turn the pages. Ultimately, Shiver presents a mind-racing puzzle that quivers with excitement.
The publisher provided complementary access to review this book through NetGalley.