The Guest List
I picked up Lucy Foley’s The Guest List in part because of all the fabulous things I’d been hearing about it, but I have to admit I was also drawn to the setting. The book takes place on a tropical island and centers around a group of people attending a wedding there. I’m always on the lookout for compelling mysteries, and if they’re set in lush, exotic locales, I’m usually pretty happy.
This is a difficult book to review due in large part to the number of characters the reader has to keep straight in their minds. The story is told in alternating chapters from quite a few different perspectives, and some characters only share a few observations with us while others are more present. As a result, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the information the author is providing. I’ll do my best to give you a basic idea of the plot, but the story is complex and this review can only begin to scratch the surface.
Aoife lives with her husband on an island just off the coast of Ireland. It’s pretty remote with spotty cell phone reception, but its beauty makes it perfect for fancy island getaways. Aoife has long dreamed of starting her own wedding planning business, and she’s finally on the verge of actually pulling it off. Magazine publisher Jules and reality TV star Will are about to be married, and they’re holding their lavish celebration on the very island where Aoife lives. Plus, they’ve hired her to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, a feather in Aoife’s cap for sure. She’s worked tirelessly to put together the perfect wedding celebration for her distinguished guests, and now all she has to do is wait for them to arrive.
Soon, the island is overflowing with wedding guests, and it quickly becomes clear to the reader that almost everyone has something to hide. Everyone pretends to be happy for the bride and groom, but all manner of secrets and lies are hidden behind their beautiful clothing and sunny smiles. And now, as a severe tropical storm sweeps across the island, things are about to get a whole lot more dangerous than most of the guests expect, because someone has a horrifying surprise in store for Jules and Will, a surprise that will cause their wedding to be remembered for years to come.
The novel’s timeline is kind of confusing. The story opens on the evening of the wedding. We learn that someone has discovered a body not far from the hotel, but the victim’s identity is not revealed. We then go back in time a few days as we’re introduced to all our key players. We learn how each person knows the happy couple, but even more important, we’re shown who holds which grudge against them, and there are a LOT of grudges!
I had no idea who the killer was. The possibilities were numerous, everyone’s motives felt authentic and compelling, and almost every chapter revealed something new, another layer to the mystery. Some of these revelations are red herrings, but it took me almost until the end of the book to figure out which ones were designed to throw me off the trail.
If ambiguous endings aren’t your thing, you’ll want to avoid The Guest List. We obviously find out the identities of both victim and villain, but something happens in the very last chapter that caused a million questions to leap into my mind. I kept hoping for an epilogue to provide some answers, but the book ends rather abruptly. I tend not to enjoy these types of conclusions since they leave me feeling quite unsettled, but I know opinions vary about these things.
If you enjoy the work of authors such as Agatha Christie, The Guest List is likely to be right up your alley. For me, it fell a little flat, but I think that had more to do with my personal preferences than the writing itself. The setting was incredibly vibrant and well-drawn, and I was definitely invested in the story. I just didn’t care for the constantly shifting point of view and I wanted more clarity at the end.