Lucy Foley’s next murder mystery is finally here! Well, I say finally, but I’ve only had to wait since November after I read, and fell in love with, The Hunting Party (2019). As one of my most highly anticipated 2020 releases I couldn’t wait to see if the success of Foley’s twisty Scottish highland tale of a New Years Eve reunion gone wrong would be continued in The Guest List (2020) as a similarly ill-fated wedding party become isolated by a summer storm. This is a non-spoiler review, and I will do my best to ensure nothing can be spoilt.
On a remote island, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. Old friends get her as past grudges come to the surface. Happy families give way to hidden jealousies. Thirteen guests. One body.
The Guest List repeats Foley’s winning formula from The Hunting Party as we’re invited into a variety of perspectives across the wedding party, the wedding planner, and smaller insights ahead to the wedding night as the lights have gone out, and the ushers respond to the scream of a waitress. Whereas I believe the number of perspectives is roughly equal. However, I would have to double-check. The group of perspectives, including one which comes as a twist itself, do not repeat my only issue with The Hunting Party of shrinking the reader’s field of view that tiniest bit too far so that only those giving their perspectives are suspects. Here, on the other hand, every significant member of the group is covered, leading to a wide variety of perspectives on each and every situation. This alone highlights a variety of intricately constructed moments. Each chapter also provides just enough detail in a small number of pages to keep you going and going. Still, they never blend together thanks to the distinctive voices and circumstances.
Foley similarly ensures that her characters never blur together as chapters move so quickly. They each maintain a distinct voice and unique situations even when those situations come together and begin to intertwine. While no one is far from suspicion, you genuinely do feel for the disparaged and despairing characters who are going through so much only to have more piled on. You also begin to route for those who seem to have it all together. You feel they are safer players, and you can comfortably like and support their actions. Then Foley begins to shift even the reader’s perspective by twisting each situation once or twice before finally settling on revealing the truth to the reader.
The Guest List is the definition of a page-turner. However, typically this does not do many favours to authors who wish to put many intricate details into their geographic setting as they can be whisked up in the plot’s quick pace. However, Foley finds an impressive balance here by creating details of atmosphere and setting predominately through the weather. Combining the stormy winds with the predominant setting of the marquee, making up the dance floor, the caves beyond and even the gripping style of each perspective following on one another so quickly enforce the feeling of claustrophobia from the characters to the reader. To make a wedding the closed circle itself is so intriguing and The Guest List delivered on all of its promises. It similarly shone in a subtle form of literary influence from Lord of the Flies, and I loved these aspects. There is a dark game of survival and some genuinely frightening moments. Foley’s simple but horrifically effective way with words creates moments which solidified themselves in my mind, and I would love to see a future book of hers go that step closer to using these frightening aspects throughout the more significant elements of the narrative.
Throughout The Guest List, there are small, massive, classic and innovative twists which keep you guessing constantly. Some twists even had me absolutely kicking myself that, somehow, I hadn’t figured them out earlier when everything just made so much sense. Overall, I thought the ending to be very fresh and satisfying. Of course, there were a variety of possibilities but, both in the moment and on reflection, as a reader, I was happy with the ending. I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way. Some connections do take a little suspension of disbelief for everything to be brought together in one single event and location, however, if you’re looking to read a classic murder mystery with distinctly modern elements, then this shouldn’t surprise you.
Overall, The Guest List recaptured the gripping magic of The Hunting Party through a distinctly intriguing closed circle, a variety of perspectives keeping me guessing to the very end and some twists changing everything in a single sentence. I cannot wait to read Foley’s next work and her earlier work for that matter. If you’re looking for the classic murder mystery aspects in a distinctly modern setting with similarly relatable characters, look no further than The Guest List.
No links in this review are affiliate links or sponsored. I bought my copy from my own interest and all views are my own.
Goodreads: Vicky Lord
Trigger warnings: Self-harm, infidelity and sexual revenge.