Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: 2nd June 2020
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
“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?”
Julia and Will are hoping to stun the guests at their exclusive wedding due to take place on a remote island. The couple’s guest list includes a mix of old school friends and close family members and their differences in background and upbringing are highlighted as the day progresses. Several strange and awkward encounters lead to a murder at the limelight of the book.
The Guest List is written through various narratives and involves several time jumps, a mechanism that works to its advantage and encourages the reader to keep guessing. The murder is revealed at the beginning and is explored through the eyes of five characters as an added layer of mystery and suspense. I was surprised to see that the groomsman, Will, was not one of the main POVs and this immediately made me suspicious of his intentions. It was also curious how the author decided to focus on Aoife, the wedding planner, as it seemed an unusual choice but ultimately added a fresh outsider perspective on the wedding which was necessary to understand the event as a whole.
Although I enjoyed experiencing the wedding through various perspectives, none of the characters were especially likable and I was not invested in any of them throughout the entire book. Several hard-hitting topics such as depression and suicide are explored through some of the characters’ POV but there was not enough opportunity to fully delve into these emotions and hardships as the plot focused mostly on the murder. Unfortunately this didn’t allow for character development as too many characters were introduced.
The remote island setting contributed to many dark and chilling moments and the author made great use of the scenery to create a disturbing yet realistic backdrop. I could picture some of the events taking place in the secluded setting and could feel the characters’ fear, largely due to the descriptive surroundings. However, some of the later scenes seemed too unrealistic and impractical to take place on the island without any of the other guests taking notice.
The exciting storyline and atmospheric setting established a strong base for a successful thriller. Although I understood the author’s reasons for creating dual timelines and multiple character POVs I didn’t feel that it was executed as well as it could have been with fewer characters. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this thriller as an addictive and quick read.