The Guest List – Review

On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.
Old friends.
Past grudges.
Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.
Thirteen guests.
One body.
The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .

I’m only managing to keep up with my attempt to post twice a month because this year’s a leap year – oops. But on the plus side, I’m finally posting another full review! I haven’t actually written one of these since August (!) and it feels fantastic to wield my metaphorical pen once more. Lucy Foley has written another murder mystery, and I clearly recall reading her previous book, The Hunting Party, in a day, and gushing about how brilliant it was. I read The Guest List in a day as well, but unfortunately, despite its clever twists and turns, I found that everything tied together a little too neatly by the book’s conclusion. What a conclusion it was – the murderer isn’t revealed until the final few pages – and neither is the victim! Now there’s a twist if ever I saw one.

Before I say anything else about the conclusion, though, I must return to the beginning. The set up was once again familiar, old friends and family members gathering, with one of their number ending up dead, and the timing shifting from Now to the day of the wedding, the day before the wedding and back. There are more POVs here than in Foley’s previous work – including the best man Johnno, the bride’s half-sister and bridesmaid Olivia, the wedding planner Aoife and the MC’s plus one, Hannah, among others. Although each POV character was clearly introduced and well drawn with their various foibles and dark secrets, some of the other characters – particularly the raucous ex-private school ushers – were difficult to tell apart, or simply filled the role expected of them, such as the groom’s overbearing and perpetually disappointed father. As is the case with most books told through multiple points of view there were some perspectives I preferred reading to others – some if only for how horrible the character was!

The blurb is very accurate when it says everyone has a secret, and a motive. Although I was surprised when the victim was revealed I also wasn’t, at the same time – it could be argued they deserved this fate for what they had done, both to characters whose eyes we see through in the novel and to those who are only mentioned. That being said, I found that not all of the motives for murder were entirely believable, and some of the connections between characters felt forced, as though Foley just had to get one more twist in there. Initially I thought these connections were smartly done but as I write this review and think over the book as a whole, I feel that some were more contrived than clever.

I’m not sure whether I preferred this to The Hunting Party – I’m certainly not raving about it as I did with that book and yet, I think if I were to re-read it I wouldn’t give it such high praise. Both books were enjoyable, and very easy to read, gripping with their continual twists and turns – I definitely enjoyed them both, and would recommend them as a fun read for a rainy afternoon. I must look at The Guest List through a critical lens as a reviewer though – and although it was a thrill ride, I will not queueing up for another go. The re-readability of murder mysteries once you know who the killer is is a discussion for another day, but while the mounting sense of dread and the stormy atmosphere were executed well, some aspects of the plot and connections between various characters defied belief. I don’t doubt that this will be another hit for Foley, and I look forward to reading her next whodunnit – although perhaps this time with more trepidation than excitement.

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