Book Review – ‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley

TITLE: The Guest List
AUTHOR: Lucy Foley
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins Publishers on June 2nd, 2020
RRP: $29.99 AUD (paperback)

The Guest List

Blurb from Goodreads:

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Lucy Foley is back with another thrilling tale of suspense and murder, once again set in a remote location. This time the scene of the crime is Inis an Amplóra or Cormorant Island, off the coast of Ireland and completely abandoned since the 90s. Until event planner Aoife decides to restore its crumbling folly to host a high society wedding between tv personality Will Slater and magazine owner Julia Keegan, bringing over a huge wedding party to the brooding island covered largely in peat bog and reputedly haunted by ghosts of a massacred religious sect. Everything seems to be going smooth as clockwork until the night of the wedding when one of the party winds up dead…

The blurb likens this to an Agatha Christie novel, which I would disagree with – there are similarities to Christie’s most popular novel, And Then There Were None, with guests invited to a remote island where a murderer lurks. However an Agatha Christie novel’s key feature involves very subtle hints behind the murder carefully seeded throughout the story which are wrapped into a neat bow at the end by the novel’s detective, leaving you to marvel at her ingenuity and how obvious the murderer was in hindsight. You can’t go into The Guest List with a similar expectation as this isn’t really a murder mystery – we don’t even know the identity of the murder victim until the 92% mark! So if your idea of a good time is trying to put together the clues and guess the murderer’s identity, this will be a struggle as it’s hard for the audience to guess about means, motive and opportunity without any idea who the victim is.

The Guest List is a slow-burn psychological thriller that focuses on establishing key characters by switching between first-person perspectives for Aoife the wedding planner, Jules the bride, Hannah the plus-one, Johnno the best man and Olivia the bridesmaid. Each of the short chapters ends with an ominous observation (‘This place is enough to make you believe in ghosts’), ironic statement (“Today I am getting married and it is going to be bloody brilliant”) or mystery (“I’m the bad thing. What I’ve done”) which helps to build an increasing sense of dread along with flashing periodically to the night of the wedding when the shocking discovery of a body is made.

Most of the story is devoted to fleshing out the tense interpersonal relationships between the main cast and teasing out their mysterious long-buried secrets or recent traumas, which emerges as the real strength of the novel. These characters may not always be likeable, but they feel convincingly real with all their foibles and flaws, and even as I shook my head at Jules’ selfishness or Johnno’s pitying self-delusion, I surprisingly still felt pangs of sympathy because of how well the first-person perspective made me relate to them.

Of course the main intrigue we’re all here for is the identity of the murderer and murder victim, but because there is such a lengthy delay in revealing either, the author peppers in smaller mysteries about our protagonists to keep us invested. What painful trauma is behind Olivia’s self-harm? What is the dark secret that ties Will and Johnno together in spite of the obvious disparity in their social and economic status? Who sent the note warning Jules to call off the wedding? What happened on the infamous stag night that still haunts Charlie? And is there anything illicit in the connection between Jules and Charlie that Hannah needs to worry about or is she just being overly territorial about her husband? All of these questions make The Guest List an addictive page-turner and the short chapters rapidly switching between characters enhance the temptation to binge-read so you can get answers.

This is a book dripping with eerie atmosphere, sure to send chills down the spine of its audience even on a bright sunny day. If you’re looking for a read that offers interesting, flawed characters with shocking secrets, thick with tension and plot twists in a unique creepy setting, then look no further!

Personal Rating: 3.5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.

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Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – ‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley

    • isn’t it bizarre! I respect the author for being so bold and going with a choice that was a bit – not controversial, but I saw other reviewers didn’t like not knowing the victim. It was an interesting storytelling decision and it had me going ‘oh, no, please not that character’ because I had the chance to become invested in a couple of them, so I liked that aspect.

      Like

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