The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a beautiful ‘whodunnit’, a typical locked room mystery that will keep you guessing till the very end – a Book Review by Dr Joel Mathew.
On Cormorant Island, off the Coast of Ireland, a grand wedding is about to take place. It is made famous by the couple themselves – the gorgeous Jules Keegan, a self-made entrepreneur in the digital world, and the sporty Will Slater, a TV star with a huge fan following. The picturesque location only adds to the grandeur of the wedding as the invited guests are blown away by the splendour. The steep cliff tops, the roaring sea with the unpredictable weather, the damp bogs and perfidious terrains though mesmerising at first, soon lends out eerie vibes. And things are not as transparent as they seem to be.
The author follows a narrative pattern where the story is carried forward through the perspective of each main character. Soon enough, we learn that the best man, master of ceremonies, bridesmaid, and ushers – all have their own insecurities, fears, secrets and motives. As the wedding day progresses, the plot deepens until it culminates in the discovery of a corpse by one of the waitresses. Each of the guests is a suspect.
As a big fan of thrillers, I knew straight away that I would like this one after reading the blurb. Though a slow-paced thriller, it is definitely one of the best in its genre. The author meticulously lays down the plot and venue, and skillfully builds it up. Rather than going for a simple narration, the author adopts a style wherein the story unfolds through the eyes of the chief guests who are on the island from the day before the wedding. The plot is carried forward through two timelines separated by a day, which converges eventually.
The whole setup gave me the vibe of a classic Agatha Christie novel, with an uncanny resemblance to “And then there were none”. Foley works her way deftly, giving insight into the pasts of the main characters, which throws light on many important aspects learned along the way. The reader will be amazed at the way the many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle realign themselves towards the culmination. Even though the narration is across timelines, it never gets jumbled up ot confusing, as one realises.
The only aspect I felt was slightly off is the pace at which the story unfolds. Not that it interferes with the reading experience, but it might dissuade some in the initial half. Also, I felt that the closing scenes could have been elaborated further.
Lucy Foley is a British novelist who writes contemporary historical fiction and crime thrillers,.with six books to her credit. She started out as a fiction editor for a publishing house before penning her first book,’ The Book of Lost and Found, in 2015. Her writings have been translated into nineteen languages so far. Her latest work is ‘The Paris Apartment ‘, released earlier this year. The Guest List by Lucy Foley won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery/Thriller in the year of its publication.
In a Nutshell
Foley creates a near-perfect thriller set against the backdrop of a grand wedding on a creepy island. The story evolves through an array of riveting narrations, bristling with personal turmoil and secrets that are sure to keep the reader glued till it’s over. The slow narration though might prove to be a turn-off if you are not a habitual reader.