Published by HarperFiction on March 19, 2020
Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, this is one guest list no one would want to be on, just as no one would have wanted an invitation to the New Year's Eve party in Foley's previous novel, The Hunting Party . Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead, there are old secrets, and one of them is murdered.
This was not a standard Book of the Month pick for me, mostly because the premise felt so meh to me. Agatha Christie did this decades ago, right? So why is this any different? I am pleased to say that while The Guest List is not built on an entirely original concept, it stands on its own two feet remarkably well.
Applicable PopSugar 2020 Prompts: A book that’s published in 2020, A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins, A book with a three-word title, A book by or about a journalist (the bride, in this story).
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
So many moons ago, I watched this show called Harper’s Island. It was about this girl who returns to her island hometown to marry the man of her dreams, and all of a sudden a lot of dramatic and unnecessary murdering happens. It is delightfully campy and nobody watched it, unfortunately. Anyway, this book has a lot of Harper’s Island energy.
We go in and out of the POVs of six different people who are all attending a wedding in this very out-of-the-way, rich, elite Irish island. We meet the wedding planner, the bride herself, the best man, the maid of honor, the plus one, and … another character I can’t remember, which is likely part of the problem, but I digree.
On the first pages, we learn that someone has died on the night of the wedding. We spend the rest of the book ping-ponging between the wedding night as people try to locate the body, and the hours leading up to the wedding. Everyone is shady, everyone is morally grey, nobody is particularly likable (except the plus one, she’s OK, I guess). So who died? We don’t know, but we probably didn’t like them. The groom in particular is the most shady of them all, and every other character has a possible motive for hating his guts, as well as his family and his old school buddies. (like his old buddies from school, not his old-school friends who are stuck in the 90s).
By the time we reach the end we are left with a satisfying conclusion, and a hell of a cliffhanger ending – not that there is a sequel coming, it’s just a very “what happened? it’s up to you!” situation, which works well for this book. But it took too long to get there.
The Bottom Line
For a 300-and-change page book, this one too way too long to get to a point where I was sucked in. I didn’t particularly like anyone at the wedding, so I didn’t super care who had died. Everyone was very dramatic and very rich, and they all started to blend together after a while. As I mentioned, I just finished this book and I could not tell you the sixth POV if I tried – that’s not necessarily a good thing. I love a slow burn as much as the next guy, but this was too slow for me – not good in a thriller.
I applaud this book for bringing back a classic murder mystery format and style – who doesn’t love a stormy island full of rich, dramatic people? – but it just didn’t work for me. The author has a prior book called The Hunting Party that seems to have a similar murder premise, and I will definitely read it because I already bought it when quarantine was starting from Barnes & Noble on a frenetic birthday trip. I am hopeful its predecessor has the pacing done up tighter and the characters a bit more memorable. The Guest List almost hit the mark for me, but ultimately wound up forgettable and lackluster.