The Guest List Book Review

If you're not on the list, you dodged a bullet… or, more precisely, a knife to the heart.

Weddings; you either love them or hate them. But when it’s the wedding of a magazine publisher and a rising television star set on a secluded island off the coast of Ireland, not many want to miss the chance of seeing the expenses the couple has gone to make their day perfect. And sure enough, when the few carefully selected guests arrive, they are not disappointed. Seated in the ruins of a once beautiful chapel, the sun setting on the horizon in front of them, the sea crashing below them, jealousy can be felt in the crowd as the bride, dressed in only designer, of course, floats down the aisle.

Now vows are spoken, rings exchanged, and vintage champagne popped, excitement fills the air as the alcohol warms the guests’ bodies from the chilly winds that have picked up. You see, even if you’ve planned for everything, there are just some things you cannot control, such as the weather… and your guests. So far away from civilization, stranded on an island with a somewhat deadly history, everyone seems to have forgotten the people they’re supposed to be playing. Instead, many use this one night of freedom from responsibilities and kids to live wildly, reminiscing on who they once were.

But there is probably a reason why the saying goes: “the past should be left in the past.” Otherwise, as old grudges rise to the surface and stories get retold in a new light, some might discover the cracks in others’ masks, realizing that an island as dark as this one might not be the best place to rediscover strangers you thought you knew your entire life. But does one of them really have what it takes to be a killer? 

Someone will die before the four-tiered cake is devoured. More than one person has a motive. Everyone has no choice but to remain on the island with a murderer on the loose. They all should have left things in the past, but I guess no one can escape the island’s history.


Should You Read It?

Heavily inspired by the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie, Lucy Foley delivered a story filled with the elements of a classic ‘whodunit’. For starters, The Guest List, along with her first thriller The Hunting Party, centered around the ‘locked room’ mystery plotline in which the story’s characters are placed together in one place and cannot leave, all aware that there is a murderer amongst them. Tensions are high, and everyone is ready to do whatever it takes to prove themselves innocent, no matter who they might hurt in the process.

Furthermore, another characteristic of any great crime novel found in this book is making the reader constantly doubt the characters, assessing their every move. While the bride and groom are the stars of the wedding, in The Guest Book, several other characters steal the spotlight off them as we get to see the anticipated event from their point of view. 

For some, this might be a turn-off, fearing that they’d get confused by the various perspectives. Nevertheless, I personally found that each of the characters and their stories, revealed bit by bit throughout the book, only worked to heighten suspense. The more you as a reader begin to uncover the invisible lines tying the characters together, the more you start to trust them less and less.

However, sticking to the classics of the mystery genre doesn’t mean that Foley didn’t add her own touch to the known plotline format. One of the biggest ways this novel, along with her The Hunting Party, differs from your typical murder mystery is that readers don’t actually know who it is that dies until almost the very end. Again, this increases suspense and doubt in the reader as not only do they have to uncover the killer, but they must also work out who the victim is. And when everyone has a motive, everyone has an enemy; trying to predict who will not leave the island by the end of the night is far harder than imagined.

Overall, this novel, although it starts out relatively slow as you try to gather information about the characters, is a very entertaining thriller. While most of the characters are far from likable, you’ll still find yourself falling for the island itself, wanting desperately to know more of its past. And if all else fails, the plot twists will definitely make you glad you stuck around!



Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock


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