If you’ve been following me for long enough, you know that I love a thriller where setting plays an important role in the story. I find it helps immerse me in the mystery. In fact, I’ll set up my reading space to fit the mood. Dark and rainy? I’ll draw the shades, turn on a table lamp, and use an ASMR room that simulates a storm. Caribbean beach? I’ll put on the sound of waves and light a candle that smells like sunscreen. So when I heard that this book was set on an island off the coast of Ireland, I knew it was time to set the mood and dive right in.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley tells the story Will and Jules’ wedding. Jules, publisher of a successful online magazine, and Will, survivalist TV star, are the perfect Hollywood couple. After a whirlwind romance, the decided to get married on a beautiful yet eerie island just off the coast of Ireland. The wedding promises to be the event of the season and guests are coming from far and wide. Those guests include: the maid of honor, the best man, the bride’s best friend’s wife, and of course, the wedding planner. Unfortunately, people are human and perfection is elusive. As readers we know that by the end of the wedding, someone will be dead and we’re left to figure out who will die, who will kill, and why.
When I first started the book, I was worried that the number of perspectives was going to become confusing. However, I found that the characters were so unique that it was easy to keep track of the story. The different perspectives actually provided a level of character development that is unusually for thrillers. The more I learned about each character the closer I came to figuring out the mystery. This is what propelled me forward even during the middle of the book when things got a little slow. I wanted to understand what was driving everyone’s behavior, even the unlikable characters (I’m looking at you Johnno).
The setting. You knew that I was going to talk about the setting. It was incredible. Foley described the island so fully and perfectly that I felt as if I were attending the wedding myself. The waves crashing against the rocky cliffs, the salty breeze, the marquee trying to hold fast in the midst of a storm. I could picture the graveyard and the fog making it challenging to see the safe paths across the island. I could even smell the peat from the bog. All of these different descriptions painted a picture of the sense of unease the island put into all of the main characters.
Overall, this was a classic “whodunnit” thriller, written in the style of mystery queen Agatha Christie. It was well written, suspenseful, and kept me guessing. My only criticism is that the middle became a little slow and the book ended rather abruptly. Many of the motives were revealed within the last 50 pages. I give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. The Guest List by Lucy Foley comes out June 2nd, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a puzzle-eque thriller.
Content Warnings: self-harm, abuse, drug use, alcohol use.