Author: M.A Bennett
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: August 10th, 2017
Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.
It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.
But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…
I was excited for this book from the first moment I heard about it. The very premise was something that pricked my interest. I was able to get a copy of this book signed by M.A Bennett during YALC this July and I impatiently waited for The Reading Quest to start so that I could start this book. As you can tell, there was a lot of build up and a lot of anticipation for this release.
S.T.A.G.S reached all of my expectations.
From the very first line – “I think I might be a murderer” – I was engaged in this story.
It’s written like almost like a memoir, everything told in retrospect which I think adds to the tension and thriller aspects of the story. You know something happened, you know someone died, you know who is responsible – you just don’t know what it is.
Bennett is really good at keeping the tension up throughout the story. The events of the deadly weekend are paralleled against the posh blood sports that take place each day – day 1, huntin’; day 2, shootin’; day 3, fishin’. Details about each bloody hobby are described and then seen acted out by the perpetrators. It’s a great way of adding foreshadowing – and therefore tension – to each arc of the story.
I really liked Greer’s voice. I enjoyed the moments of uncertainty that she felt, I liked all the movie references because that was something that was distinctly her and gives her a fantastic voice that you can follow with ease.
All the characters really were charismatic and entertaining in their own way. From the ‘Medievals’, blond and beautiful, to Shafeen, who wants to find out the secrets and save those he cares about, to Nel, who just wants to fit in. Each of them have you questioning intentions or feeling empathy deep in your chest for these feelings of inadequacy.
There’s a lot of focus on the modern world vs the old, and the social commentary that comes with that is incredibly interesting to read. Positives and negatives are both raised, the romanticisation of the past repeatedly challenged. In the end, this questioning is something that sets the characters and the world that S.T.A.G.S inhabited apart from everything else.
And as for the plot twist, well, let’s say – M.A. Bennett, is there going to be a sequel?