Narrator: Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble
Published by HarperAudio on May 5, 2020
Length: 9 hrs 55 mins
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A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.
The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
I really wish blurbs would stop comparing book to Agatha Christie’s. Lucy Foley is not Agatha Christie and her book really has little similarities to Christie’s except a dead body. We don’t have a detective, amateur or otherwise. This isn’t even a traditional mystery, more of a psychological thriller. I think the comparison is misleading and not fair to Foley.
The Guest List alternates between many points of view, with a different narrator for each. Usually, I’m not a fan of multiple narrators but it works well here. We have the bride, the groom, the best man, the plus one, the wedding planner, and the bridesmaid. We know something bad has happened but we don’t know exactly what or who got hurt. The timeline also jumps back and forth between the past, two days before the wedding, to the chaotic wedding day in the present. Details are revealed slowly. The tension just keeps building as we learn the characters’ fears, secrets, lies, and jealousies; the upcoming disaster seems inevitable. The victim is not much of surprise, but there are so many potential killers and motives.
The setting lends a perfect atmosphere to the story: a remote island, accessible only by boat; a storm brewing with the electricity going on and off; and a bog waiting to catch someone wandering from the path.
The Guest List was enjoyable and kept me guessing. I just wish it hadn’t reminded me so much of Foley’s The Hunting Party, published in 2019. These are some of my comments about The Hunting Party with corrections to make it fit The Guest List: “The
holiday is New Year’s event is a wedding and the country house is actually a remote resort island in Scotland, where the group of friends and guests have been isolated from the outside world by a blizzard. We know from the first page chapter that one of them is dead, but we don’t know who exactly the victim is until the last few chapters. I was impressed by how well Foley kept unfolding the secrets and clues bit by bit, without letting on who either the killer or the victim was. I can’t think of a book I’ve read lately that kept the suspense going that well. The friends are not nice, likable people. Heather Aoife, who runs the resort is the wedding planner, and the caretaker her husband each clearly have their own murky pasts that they are trying to forget.” Just too similar for me. On the other hand, I guess if you find a formula that works you stick with it. To me, though, this felt like seeing the same trick twice, it’s just not as surprising or interesting the second time around.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: