Review: The Guest List

Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Rating: 4/5 stars
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?

I saw this book on a lot of “hard-to-put-down thriller” lists, and I kept seeing it featured at my local bookstores, so I decided to give it a shot. I love a good thriller, it’s always fun to keep guessing at what happened as you get more clues about the story and the characters. I wouldn’t call this a page-turner, since I thought it was a little longer than it needed to be, but I did enjoy this book and had no idea what the final twist would be.

The Guest List is a locked room murder mystery, or rather a “everyone is stuck on this island because of a storm” murder mystery. None of the characters are particularly likeable, and a lot of them have secrets and trauma that they are still trying to recover from. The story alternates timelines and points of view for the days leading up to the wedding as well as the night that the body was discovered. Unlike most books, where you find out what the crime is in the beginning and try to figure out why or how it happened, you don’t even find out who was murdered until almost the end of the book. The book kept me guessing with more revelations about each character’s past, trying to figure out how everyone is connected and who is resentful or jealous of whom.

Although I generally did enjoy the book, I found the middle to be a little slow. We spend a lot of time hashing out the insecurities and petty jealousies of all the different characters, and while some of them were relevant to the story, some of them just felt like they were there as filler to obscure the truth about who killed the murder victim and why. Through everyone’s backstories, we find out that one person was somehow connected to the worst moment in a lot of people’s lives. It was a little bit unbelievable that all of these people would coincidentally end up at this wedding, or that one person could have harmed so many people in so many ways without any of them connecting the dots.

While I found the reveal of the killer and their motive pretty satisfying, I wished there was a little more to the ending of the book. It seemed rather abrupt, and I wanted to know what happened to all of the characters who confronted their inner demons at this wedding. I also felt that one character didn’t deserve the ending they got. A lot of people at this wedding were kind of terrible, and so was this character; I think they deserved some retribution for their unwitting participation in something terrible and subsequent silence but I don’t think they deserved to be punished as the main instigator if that makes sense. Part of the reason I felt uneasy about this character’s ending was how abrupt it was, so maybe I would feel differently if the ending was a little longer and had jumped forward in time a bit to see where all the characters ended up after the wedding.

1 thought on “Review: The Guest List”

  1. This sounds fun! I love a good thriller where you haven’t figured it out halfway through, and something about “small group on an island” thrillers is just plain fun (if you never saw Harper’s Island, the premise sounds similar). I hadn’t heard of this one (once again you review a book I didn’t know existed and need to read, stat), so thanks for putting it on my radar!


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