The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Posted On 20 February 2020

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TheGuestlistAround the end of 2018 I picked up The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley and really enjoyed it (my review is here)- so much so that when I saw The Guest List was due to be published this month I nearly had a conniption rushing to request a copy.  And I was so lucky to be approved that I positively danced a little victory dance.  Okay, I did dance that dance but I refuse to be shamed by it.  I was a happy reader (having a request approved just never gets old for me and always amazes and delights me in equal measure).

So, the Guest List.  Did it live up to my high expectations?  It most certainly did, in fact I think it surpassed them in some ways and if pushed I’d probably say I liked it even more than The Hunting Party (more victory dancing).  Foley has a fantastic way of taking a group of characters and really bringing them to life.  She seems an expert in creating murder mysteries where everyone has something to hide and I’m simply loving her work (no pressure at all there then).

This is a story that definitely has Christie vibes.  Here we have a group of people assembling on a remote island to enjoy a wedding.  It should be a joyous occasion (although we all know how disastrously these little get togethers can be, people who haven’t met for years with old grudges coming out of the woodwork).  The setting is very remote – this is a tiny island off the coast of Ireland accessible only by boat.  Of course, in true murder mystery fashion the weather is not going to co-operate and what starts off as a bright and sunny day soon looks like a different kettle of fish as stormy clouds gather on the horizon and as the weather changes so does the mood of the guests and there’s this terrible tension before things go horribly wrong.

Okay, this shares a lot of themes with The Hunting Party – but they’re such good themes that they work.  The isolated setting.  The meeting up of a group of people, all with their own secrets and motives and the eventual discovery of a body that for a while is part of the mystery itself as the identity is not immediately revealed.

The story is told in two timelines, ‘Now’ and ‘The Day Before’ and has five different POVs.  Now, to be clear, this may sound like a lot of jumping around and lots of names to remember, but Foley has made it all deceptively simple by not only clearly heading each chapter but also by giving people relevant titles so we have The Bride, The Bridesmaid, The Plus One, The Wedding Planner and the Best Man.

The wedding itself is a big posh celebrity affair.  The Groom is an up and coming star who is the leading man in a successful survival show.  The bride is the owner of a very popular online magazine that sets trends and dictates fashion ‘must haves’.  Of course the two are going to have a lavish affair that showcases their beauty, success and taste and the wedding has been planned down to the finest detail (although the murderer has a different agenda).

I will say that if you plan on reading this you need to be aware that some of the characters are a little unlikeable – although as you get to know them you start to get a deeper understanding of their own personal drivers.  The bride for example.  A little (a lot) vain, desperately needs to be in control and ensure that everything is perfect and she comes across as a little cold and calculating.  She does reveal a different side as the story progresses though so be patient.  The groom, who doesn’t have his own POV chapter but we see through the other pov’s eyes.  So dazzlingly attractive that he stops most people in their tracks, charming and able to smile his way into anybody’s good books.  What the groom shares with both his Best Man and Ushers is a past.  They all attended a top notch private school for the privileged and most of them have been incredibly successful as a result.  Foley does an excellent job of portraying these characters and their bully-boy ways painting them in rather aggressive or patronising tones dependent upon who they’re trying to curry favour with or belittle.  The bridesmaid (and younger sister to the bride) has experienced some sort of trauma in her past that has made her retreat into herself.  She has withdrawn to a dark and lonely place and finds it difficult to connect to anyone.  Basically, I’m not going to give a description for everyone as these people are best discovered during the read.  Suffice to say that there are a lot of secrets here and they will all be revealed in a most deliciously startling and jaw dropping fashion.

The setting is great and really plays into the story.  Here you have a tiny island, only two miles long and a fraction of that in width.  Very little wifi signal and no residents other than the owners of the wedding venue.  There are beautiful, sheltered, white sandy coves with sparkling turquoise waters.  The old house has been renovated to perfection and outside stands the remains of a chapel – open to the elements – where the wedding will take place.  It all sounds simply superb.  Of course, the sunshine has a way of beautifying everything doesn’t it.  Roll in the stony skies and the seas crashing against the rocks and the cliffs and bogs take on a more threatening demeanour, especially with all the rumours of ghosts running amok and the dodgy electrics going out at the most inopportune times.

The pacing is brilliant and I love the way Foley writes.  She puts me very much in mind of DuMaurier with the easy way she brings her characters and settings to life.  I had a difficult time putting this down and was always anxious to sit back down and pick up where I left off.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this isn’t a particularly long book and there is plenty fitted into the available pages.  I guess this could have been expanded slightly to help develop some of the characters at a slower pace, for example, the bride and groom – I wasn’t totally convinced by their relationship.  They were definitely in lust with each other but I couldn’t quite understand why they’d decided to marry.  The ending in particular feels almost over a little too quickly – but, I think that’s just me being greedy for more.   This is a two day event and fittingly I actually devoured it in the same time frame.

I highly recommend The Guest List.  If you like mysteries with lots of secrets then you really can’t go wrong with this one.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 5 of 5 stars

 

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Guest List by Lucy Foley – because I so loved The Hunting Party:

The Guest List.jpgA wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

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?

Due for publication : February 2020

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Posted On 3 December 2018

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huntingBefore I get to the meat of this review I can say upfront that I had a great time reading this – it has a cosy murder mystery feel to it, if, that is, you can liken being snowed into a very remote Scottish country retreat with a dead body cosy.  I just blasted through this, it was entertaining, well written and compelling and I really didn’t want to put it down.

I would also mention that this isn’t speculative fiction.  It’s a straight up murder mystery with an Agatha Christie type feel, plenty of red herrings and a group of friends who aren’t quite as close as they think.

The story is told in two different timeframes – very close together but one in which we jump forward a couple of days and a dead body has been discovered and the other set a few days earlier as the party of friends make their way across country to arrive at the lodge they’ve booked for their New Year’s shindig.  We also have a few narrators.  Two of the employees, Heather and Doug, who run the lodge and 3 of the friends, Miranda, Emma and Katie.  The story is told in such a way that for a large portion of the book the reader is unaware of who has been murdered – although it doesn’t stop you from guessing of course.

I think the author succeeds in a number of ways.

Firstly, setting.  A remote lodge set within many acres of land and very little wifi signal, even less when in the middle of a serious snow storm which occurs during the time the guests are in situ.  The guests stay in individual style chalets and the celebrations take place in an ultra modern, all glass structure that helps to increase the tension.  The guests are sometimes outside by themselves going to and fro and on top of that there’s a feeling of being watched which is exacerbated by the all the glass and the slight feeling of fear generated by the fact that a serial murderer seems to be stalking the neighbourhood.  In placing the setting in such a difficult to reach place the author manages to convey a sense of isolation and a feeling of menace and in cutting the guests off from their phones, social media and other means of contacting the outside world succeeds in giving them the sense of being stranded or abandoned – a feeling that is increased further when the snow storm sets in and prevents travel to or from the lodge.

Then there’s the characters.  Both Doug and Heather have secrets in their past which have driven them to accept jobs in such isolated circumstances.  They’re both running away from something and what that is is slowly revealed during the course of the story.  The guests are a bunch of thirty somethings.  The majority of them have known each other since their university days, Katie and Miranda’s friendship goes back even further.  They’re all living their own lives now, for the most part successful in their careers, one couple with a baby daughter but they still come together for these occasions – almost determined to have fun!  On the face of it this is a group who share a lot of history, they like to have a good time, they know each other well, who likes to party hard, who the quiet one is, but, with all this history comes not just good memories but also sometimes long held resentments, jealousies and indiscretions. This is a group of people growing apart but are not quite ready to accept it.  A group of people who if they met now, at this age, they probably wouldn’t be friends.  They’re together because of a long history but sometimes the ugly side of that history pops out and as a result it casts suspicion on more than one character providing lots of red herrings.

Quite a large portion of the story revolves around Miranda.  She plays the queen bee.  Golden, beautiful, dazzling, unexpectedly generous but ruthlessly bitchy.  She has the ability to light up a room.  She can put on the charm at will.  Yes, we’ve seen this sort of character before although what I particularly like about Miranda is that she also has something of a vulnerable streak and as she narrates some of the chapters this comes across quite well.  At the same time the whole group do seem to be a little bit in her shadow and in fact even when you’re reading from one of the other narrators they’re usually thinking about her.

Overall, that’s probably all I can tell you without giving away plot points.  The writing is good, the pace is fast and the story kept me guessing all the way through – and honestly, I didn’t see what was coming but I did have a great deal of fun jumping around from character to character as the author twisted me round in circles giving me first one suspect, then another and then yet another.  On the strength of this novel I would definitely pick up more by this author.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.