Title: The Guest’s List
Author: Lucy Foley
Category: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological thriller, Psychological Fiction
Publication Year: 2020
The Guest List is a fun and fast-paced, guessing game of a read; perfect for fans of Dame Agatha Christie, or Ruth Ware.
Lucy Foley follows The Hunting Party with this even more hugely entertaining atmospheric murder mystery, a modern take on Agatha Christie, set on the wild and isolated Cormorant Island, off the west coast of Ireland.
The golden celebrity couple, Julia ‘Jules’ Keegan, publisher of a successful online magazine, and the handsome Will Slater, rising star of TV show “Survival”, are getting married in style in front of their friends and family, an exclusive event being organised by wedding planner, Aoife and catered for by her husband, Freddy.
Weddings are generally memorable occasions for one reason or another. There’s always some level of drama simmering just under the pristine surface.
That’s certainly the case for Jules and Will’s wedding, taking place on a remote Irish island that the grumbling guests agree to congregate on for a 48-hour period.
The narrative alternates between many POV’s: The Bride, The Groom, The Best Man, The Plus One, The Wedding Planner, and The Bridesmaid.
Guests gather on a remote island off the coast of Ireland for a celebrity wedding. Sounds idyllic, right? Except this dream wedding turns into a nightmare long before the dead body is found.
But who is the victim? And who is the killer? This story is all about the journey to the end, when all is revealed. The secrets, grudges, and mysterious pasts of the guests are slowly revealed.
Red herrings abound, and nearly everyone has a motive for murder.
On a dark, wild and stormy wedding night when the power cuts, something has gone desperately wrong and in a narrative that goes back and forth in time, a distraught waitress speaks of seeing a body outside, which has the ushers setting out into the night to find out what has happened.
Foley provides the perspectives of a wide host of diverse characters, with their fears, secrets, lies and silences amidst the drink and drug fuelled wedding celebrations over which hang an ominous air of upcoming disaster, a feeling that is enhanced further by the island with its haunted history, ghosts, treacherous terrain and the approaching storm.
With the timeline of the story going back and forth, Foley narrates that Jules is worrying about an anonymous note that warns her not to marry Will; and her bridesmaid, her sister Olivia, is a fragile self harming wreck. The best man, Johnno, is desperate not to lose touch with Will as they have a history that goes back to their school days.
Hannah is the plus one, married to Charlie, and is the best friend of the bride; they are a cash strapped couple, determined to make the most of their first opportunity for a long time to be away from their children and their humdrum lives. The ushers are a bunch of sneering, entitled, bullying and malicious ex-public schoolboys who have never grown up.
While it seems a lot to keep up with, the structure of the book makes it easy to keep track of who is who. The chapters are short and precise, making for a very quick, engrossing read.
Foley skilfully reveals the past history of the characters, grief, losses, simmering resentments and jealousies, guilt, secrets, lies, a past that adds up to a bubbling cauldron full of motives to kill, and a present where the chickens of the past have finally come home to roost.
Foley excels in writing a riveting murder mystery, with the vibrant creation and development of larger than life characters, attending a strife ridden wedding in a location that is just perfect for the darkest of deeds to take place.
The highlight of the book is that Foley doesn’t reveal the killer or the victim until the conclusion. While the victim is fairly easy to guess, the killer most certainly is not.