The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Mystery | Thriller
Published by William Morrow
Released March 19, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
One of the things that I love about Book of the Month is that the service prompts me to read outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been surprised several times in the past, but with Lisa Foley’s The Guest List, it was the biggest surprise of all.
I don’t care for murder mysteries. I never have. In high school and college I tried several times to read Agatha Christie novels, and always DNF’ed them. Over the years I’ve lost count of how many murder mystery novels I’ve put down unfinished. I like dark, morbid stories, so it would make sense for me to love books like these, but it is what it is.
I went into The Guest List skeptically for just that reason, but within the first fifty pages I was hooked. The dark, moody, Irish atmosphere, the multi-perspective narrative, and the flow of the story pulled me quickly in and kept me engaged until the very last page.
The story takes place on a small island off the coast of Ireland during a high-profile wedding:
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?
This is a multi-perspective narrative, which works well for this type of whodunnit story. At the same time though, the number of narratives and characters we follow can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re the type of person who dislikes multiple-perspective novels. We hear from the bride, the bride’s best friend and his wife, and multiple wedding guests. For me personally it worked really well and kept me intrigued, but keep that in mind if you prefer single or dual narrative stories.
I loved the complex relationships between the characters which, aside from being entertaining, also served to heighten the suspense of the story and to keep the pace moving quickly. The groom and his best men have a tight relationship after attending the same school together in their youth, and they’re incredibly caught up in their teenage days. The bride’s best-friend’s wife is suspicious of her husband’s friendship with the bride. The bride’s little sister seems a little off, although no one actually knows why. There are plenty of secrets that come out slowly as we meet and get to know each character, and that’s a large part of why I found the story so intriguing.
I want to say again that I’m not typically a big thriller/murder mystery reader. Lucy Foley’s The Guest List genuinely surprised me. If you like atmospheric mystery novels, and if you want to read a book where the author masterly tells the tale from almost too many perspectives, I 100% recommend this book to you.