Lucy Foley is certainly standing out as one of the authors giving a new, modern face of horror in literature. Her chilling novel,“The Guest List,” published in February 2020, was named one of The New York Times’ best thrillers of the year, and definitely deserves the title. This destination wedding-style murder mystery truly keeps you on the edge of your seat, eager to solve it. With its many diverse characters and side plots, it’s a thrilling adventure from start to finish.
Taking place on Connemara, a fictional island off of Ireland, you will notice some slight changes in dialect and scenery that we, as New Yorkers, are familiar with. Each chapter is read from a different perspective, cycling between five different narrators: Jules, the bride, Olivia, the bridesmaid, Johnno, the best man, Aoife, the wedding planner and Hannah, the plus one. There are also occasional time jumps between before and after the wedding and the murder that takes place the night of. Each character holds their own forbidden, unspoken secrets. This can either help or harm your interpretation of who might be the reliable narrator(s,) which adds to the fun of reading this novel.
The story follows the weekend wedding of a hip couple in their early thirties: Jules, a magazine owner, and Will, a reality TV host. They seem to be the perfect pair to outsiders; however, they haven’t been together for more than a year. Their wedding party consists of their closest and oldest friends who each appear suspicious in their own unique ways. Jules has an interesting, flirty relationship with her lifelong friend, Charlie, who happens to be married to and has kids with Hannah. Will’s friends and groomsmen, on the other hand, have stuck with him since school days, which they all frequently obsess over. Johnno is haunted by a memory from said days and, in his adulthood, resorts to drinking and smoking to forget his trauma. This adds a bit of suspension surrounding Will and Johnno. Aoife, on the other hand, is a fly on the wall; she keeps her interactions with everyone else to a minimum, establishing her formal presence only when needed. Despite this, she hears and sees everything. The intertwining backstories of all these characters are wild enough to keep you turning the pages all night, and it was something I really appreciated as a reader. Each character has so much more depth than meets the eye.
When Charlie leaves Hannah’s side the entire weekend to be near Jules, Hannah is left alone to make the weekend worthwhile. She frequently interacts with Olivia, the bridesmaid and half sister of the bride, who is only 19 years old. Here, we understand some of both of these women’s personal issues as they share secrets, which establishes a mutual trust between the two. We also understand, through Jules’s perspective, her not-so-keen feelings for both Olivia and Hannah. All the while, Charlie is hinting to Jules and Hannah about his dislike and distrust of Will. The array of issues between everyone makes it hard to guess where a real issue would stem out of that results in the murder on the night of the wedding. This is what makes the story so fun: it’s a complete twist and turn, and you really won’t know “whodunnit” until the end.
This story will have you second guessing every single character until the very end. I appreciated how the cycle of narrators helps us guess who might be suspicious, or who might fall victim to murder. This is definitely a book you could finish in one or two sittings depending on how fast you read, as it is very binge worthy. Murder mysteries seem to be very present in the media lately, and I thought this was a great addition to this style of thriller. Make sure you check this one out next time you’re looking for a fun, twisty thriller novel!
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