I love a good locked-door mystery, and Lucy Foley’s latest, The Guest List is one of the best ones I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing lately.
The Guest List, published June 2nd, is one of June’s Reese’s Book Club pick, so if you don’t have an early copy of this one through another book club, go ahead and order your copy and read along with Reese.
Also, check out Reese’s other pick for June, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.
Keep reading the full review to see why this may be the perfect suspenseful thriller to add to your TBR this summer.
It’s going to be the wedding of the season. Jules Keegan planned and perfected every detail to be certain of it.
She’s marrying Will Slater, reality TV golden boy; the perfect man.
The charming destination venue; a private island off the coast of Ireland will be enough to make her the envy of all the important guests on her list.
Then the tides start to turn. On the eve of the wedding, when the wedding party is gathered on the island tension arises.
A storm is brewing outside, and once the wedding guest arrive there’s no getting off the island with the high tides and stormy seas. For better or for worse, they are stuck on the island until the storm passes.
The bride. The best Man. The plus-one.The Wedding Planner. The Bridesmaid.
These are the key players in the story, which is told from their alternating perspectives and from alternating timelines until the story catches up to the night of the wedding… when a blood-curdling scream interrupts the night’s festivities.
Someone on the island won’t make it off alive.
But who will it be?
Everyone among them seems to be lying, trying to conceal some secret from the past.
Though on the outside their lives appear shiny and perfect, each of the guest also seem to have reason to hate each other, though the past may keep them bound together.
But who has reason enough to kill? When the lights go out and chaos breaks loose, will the answers be brought to light, or will they take their secrets to the grave?
I’ll be the first to admit that The Guest List has interesting premise, but we’ll get there.
First I’ve got to talk about these characters.
About halfway through this novel, I came to the conclusion that out of an entire wedding party there is one person so far I’m not convinced is hiding something sinister. One! And after completing the book I stand by that assessment. Things only got more twisted as the story progressed.
I don’t mind unlikeable characters in a book as long as they are complex and interesting, and the ones in The Guest List are both. They are largely privileged, entitled, and don’t care who they step on as long as they come out on top. They’re full of lies and hiding secrets that could destroy each other. The key is that despite the characters being unlikeable, the tension and history between them kept me eager to keep reading and find out more about what’s happening.
The mood of the book was suspenseful and eerie. I could feel the Agatha Christie vibes that were mentioned in early reviews, and love how Foley paid homage to the Dame.
That said, there is one caveat for avid thriller readers.
Given the focus on the drama unfolding between the characters and has elements of classic, gothic mystery, it’s understandably more slow-paced than your typical thriller.
This is not meant as a criticism. I do feel, however that knowing the book will help readers choose one they’ll enjoy better at the time. As a murder noir the book excels at feeling modern while having that classic vibe and keeps readers engaged. Just don’t expect quite as much action as the average thriller. The Guest List has a slower build, and a much more nuanced tension woven throughout.
Now, back to the plot. The book opens with the discovery of a body, so there is little surprise that someone won’t make it off the island. I like Foley’s decision to conceal who the victim is and take us back and forth in time on the day leading up to the wedding.
The alternating points of view within the novel also worked well. The short POV chapters kept the pace of the novel moving steadily, and Foley made it flow well.
This helps make the book a compelling read, and balance the slowness that is characteristic of a locked-door mystery. This is not to say the plot isn’t interesting. It is, but it takes a back seat to these twisted and dark characters and the drama between them.
And, with an ensemble this twisted I don’t mind it at all.
Overall, The Guest List is a tense and gripping thriller, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and contemporary suspense alike.
While I was able to guess “whodunnit” as well as the murder victim, I was questioning myself and suspecting each of the key characters as I was reading. It was an enjoyable ride to the end, watching it all unfold.
I give Foley’s The Guest List four stars. It’s a great book to add to your TBR when you’re looking for a fast and entertaining read. Go order your copy today and get reading!
gaslighting; self harm; suicide attempt; past suicide loss; substance abuse; infidelity, brutal murder