Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

by Heather Caliendo
book review the guest list - book club chat

Editorial note: I received a copy of The Guest List in exchange for a review. 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a fairly entertaining mystery about a wedding from hell. 

I really enjoyed Lucy’s novel The Hunting Party. It’s also a murder mystery and features interesting character development. The setting in Scottish Highlands is top-notch. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you check that one out! 

I didn’t enjoy The Guest List as much as The Hunting Party, which I’ll get into more. Don’t get me wrong—I read the story in one sitting so I was very engaged. But I had a couple issues with it. 

First the synopsis 

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?

The characters

So the story is well-written and I do think it rises above most thrillers. I much prefer mystery stories over ridiculous psychological thrillers these days. And the mystery is good – predictable in some ways but also surprising too. I didn’t think though the characters were as fleshed out. And I also was downright annoyed at a couple characters. 

The groom is Will. He’s a super handsome man with a rising TV career. He seems perfect but, of course, there are cracks in the veneer. Jules is the stunning bride with a successful career. She can be cruel and also has her secrets too. Hannah, is the plus-one, and her husband Charlie is best friends with Jules. She’s a stressed out mother of two hoping this weekend away will bring them closer together. Olivia is Jules’ half-sister and seems depressed. Johnno is Will’s best friend from boarding school who has plenty of issues. And Aoife is the wedding planner trying to pull off a wedding for the first time on this island.

These are all the characters we follow so quite a lot! I have to say, I did not love the big focus on the boarding school men (there’s more of them in the story; we just don’t read their perspectives). I just didn’t think those guys were very intriguing. There is a reason we follow Johnno’s perspective throughout but some of his actions just didn’t make sense and not in a “suspicious way” but in a head scratcher move from the author. If you’ve read the story, message me and I’ll tell you what I mean. 

But the women are interesting. Jules is a little stereotypical but she makes some surprising choices to keep her more engaging. Olivia and Aoife are the standouts. 

The setting

Once again, Lucy writes an amazing setting! The island itself is by far another character. It’s beautiful but dangerous with especially rough waters. The island is only two miles from one end to the other and is described as longer than wide. And the only way to get the island is from a private boat. The island adds to the mystery setting especially when it comes to the eventual murder. 

I liked reading the details of putting the wedding together; the food they ate and just all the information that make for a more well-rounded story. Almost like you feel like you’re there but definitely glad you’re not at the same time. 

Writing reviews for thrillers and mysteries are hard because I never want to give anything away! I thought this was entertaining overall and there are some surprises but also I felt some areas are too obvious. I think it was lacking a bit in character development. Still, for a quick read on a summer day, The Guest List is a pretty good choice. Check out my book club questions here

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