Ok, so you know how in my last review I said that Foley wasn’t formulaic? I’m about to contradict myself here, because there are some pretty striking similarities between The Guest List and The Hunting Party, one of her earlier novels. Both books have a group of people traveling to an isolated island getaway, one off the coast of Ireland and one Scotland. Someone gets murdered. We don’t know who it is and we don’t know who did it. The guests are there on these secluded islands for different events, but they still wind up in pretty similar predicaments, and old festering resentments eventually rear their ugly heads. With that being said, I do feel Foley did a good enough job of distinguishing the two works through her character development. Additionally, this particular Agatha Christie-esque style is pretty common in the genre because it works.
A bride and groom, the wedding party, and a gaggle of wedding guests arrive at a beautiful historic mansion in a remote location off the Irish coast to celebrate a joyous event. It doesn’t take long, thanks to a bunch of middle aged frat boys and a pocketful of seething resentments, for things to go awry. When someone winds up dead, staff and guests alike are left to solve the bloody crime before the killer strikes again.
This was, by far, my favorite of the three Lucy Foley books. I loved the slow burn of the rising tension and the pace at which Foley uncovered the different layers of history that brought all these people to their present places in life. Ok, and here’s another place where I will contradict what I said in my last review. I said Foley’s characters were difficult to love and difficult to hate. In this case, I take it back. I had no trouble hating some of the guys in this book. They were pathetic, immature imbeciles with few (and that’s being generous) redeeming qualities. I’m not saying this is unrealistic. I would need an extra hand to count up all the has-been beer-bellied frat boys who spend their lives trying to relive their glory days as masters of the universe that I know personally. Foley nailed it. Rarely do I have an internal debate regarding which character I hope gets murdered, but here I am living the dream. I’m kidding. I would never wish death on all the immature man children of the world. Only in fiction.
The only exception to this was Johnno, the best man. While he IS a has-been frat boy, he was a complicated and slightly more sympathetic character where I was concerned. Though what made my feelings toward him more difficult to swallow is that this is the mental image I had of him in my head:
Eek, poor Johnno.
Now back to the actual book instead of my strange brain. Plot wise, I found the conclusion to be quite satisfying, though there were certain plot points that brought us to that conclusion that I found to be a bit too convenient. I know sometimes this is necessary to reach the desired conclusion, so I’ll forgive her for this. In a way, it’s thanks to these conveniences that the end caught me off guard. I had guessed some details, but certainly not all, which was a pleasant surprise.
With such a large cast of characters, Foley did an excellent job compartmentalizing and not causing me to get confused or overwhelmed. I also loved the highly atmospheric Irish setting. I listened to this one and greatly enjoyed the full cast narration by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens and Rich Keeble. Fun fact: I love the name Aoife (pronounced Ee-Fuh). It is the name of a principal character in the book, and I just found out this very moment it is the name of one of the narrators as well. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess she provided the voice for Aoife, the lone Irish woman in the book.
In short, I would recommend any of these three Foley books to other readers, but if I was forced to only choose one, it would be The Guest List. It’s the one that is, all around, the most well developed and the most satisfying for a lover of the genre.
First published February 20, 2020 by William Morrow. Audio version published June 2, 2020 by HarperAudio. ISBN 9780062985057. Audiobook. Runtime 10 hrs 22 mins.
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