Book Review: The Guest List

Previously: September TBR|Coming Soon: The Devil and the Dark Water Book Review

The Guest List is a contemporary mystery/thriller by Lucy Foley and published on the 19th of March 2020 by Harper Collins. It follows several guests over two timelines at an exclusive island wedding where one is killed. It was also part of Kayla@BooksandLala’s Literally Dead Book Club.

I do not read a lot of thrillers but when I heard the set up for this one, I knew that I could not resist picking it up. It takes place on a small island that is isolated from mainland Ireland by a storm. It follows a small group of people at the wedding, giving us a limited group of suspects. Of course, the similarities to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None are plain to see but that was one of the selling points, for me. In both cases, I was confident that the set up promised the allure of a fabulously atmospheric mystery.

I love reading a story from multiple points of view because I feel like it lends a richness to the narrative that is hard to replicate in a single perspective. That said this genre is probably the most difficult to write in multiple points of view because you’re always, or at least you should be, trying to mislead the reader. I do think that Foley was successful in using this narrative device and she did a really good job in balancing them all. The characters were interesting. They weren’t quite awful enough to be unlikeable, but they also weren’t necessarily good people. In some aspects, Foley did tend to fall into the habit of exaggerating a certain aspect of the character. For instance, Jules was a control freak and that was her defining character trait. The villain also got a little comically villainous towards the end, but I don’t mind that so much in my villains.

In terms of the mystery aspect, I thought that it was good, strong mystery. Since all of the characters were a little off-putting none of the reveals made my jaw drop. They were interesting and fun, and I did not guess them (well, maybe one or two) but, they weren’t so big that I’m still thinking about them. The narrative switches between ‘Now’, with the discovery of a body, and ‘before’, where you see the build-up of tensions among the characters. This also enabled Foley to control the way she built up the tension and helped with the overall pacing. However, it was the atmosphere that made the book stand out in a crowded market. Not only the location, which does lend itself to the overall atmosphere but also Foley’s writing. Small details like having a red velvet cake, with viciously vivid red inside almost echoes the violence and the blood of the story.

Overall, I gave The Guest List ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of a possible five stars. It’s a good, solid thriller, but it does feel like a case of style over substance. The concept was so strong that Foley faltered a little on the execution. I also feel that it was a little longer than it needed to be. That said I would defiantly recommend it to anyone who likes isolated thrillers.

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