Audiobook Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: HarperAudio (June 2, 2020)
Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
Narrator: Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble
Everyone’s talking about Lucy Foley’s The Guest List, and for good reason. After all, what’s not to love about a murder mystery set on a remote Irish island to the backdrop of the wedding party from hell?
The story also employs a formula that’s tried and true. At the start of the novel, a body is discovered by a distraught waitress, causing shock and panic amongst the gathered guests. However, we know that one of them has to be the killer. Gradually, the events leading up to the murder are revealed to us via two timelines, titled “Now” and “The Day Before”, told through the eyes of a handful of perspectives.
First, we have the happy bride. Jules is a successful entrepreneur and owner of a posh lifestyle magazine who is about to marry charming and handsome Will, a minor celebrity who made his name starring in a hit survival TV show. A trend setter, Jules has decided to buck tradition and hold her wedding on cold and windswept Cormorant Island just of the coast of Ireland. Next, we have the wedding planner. Aoife is a local middle-aged woman who lives in the area, and she and her husband have had lots of experience organizing swanky events and dealing with their high-profile attendees. Still, this wedding has Aoife feeling on edge. A nasty storm appears to be rolling in, and the rowdy behavior of some of the guests are giving her bad vibes.
Many of these troublemakers are the ushers, friends of Will from his childhood growing up at an exclusive boarding school. Individually, they may be well-behaved young men, but together, they are as wild and unruly as pack of dogs. One of them is the best man, Johnno. He’s a bit of a screw-up, and Jules can’t see why her smart and capable husband-to-be would associate with such a loser—unless Johnno has something over him. Also bearing the brunt of Jules’ wrath is her sister Olivia, the bridesmaid. Having just been through a traumatic breakup, the nineteen-year-old is on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown, but the bride has little sympathy when all she wants is her wedding to be perfect. And finally, there is the plus one, Hannah, whose husband Charlie is best friends with Jules. They have been married for a while, but lately their relationship has been become rather stressed. Attending this wedding as a couple was supposed to be their chance to reconnect, but Hannah isn’t liking what being close to Will’s hooligan friends is doing to Charlie, nor is she happy with the furtive glances and suggestive jokes between Jules and her husband.
The stage is set for a classic whodunit, and of course, one of the biggest mysteries is the identity of the victim. Every one of these characters have a reason to kill—and to be killed. That’s because none of them are particularly likeable, but then that’s par for the course with a story like this. Characters that you’d love to hate is the name of the game, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Despite their off-putting personalities and heinous behaviors, they were all deliciously fascinating to read about, each of them harboring their own hidden motives and checkered pasts. Watching this mystery unfold was just half the fun, and the rest was getting to know these characters and discover their deepest, darkest secrets.
The story was also perfectly paced—slow-burning but not slow moving, which is an important distinction and a balance that few mystery authors manage to achieve. I loved how the plot teased you mercilessly, but at the same time the momentum never dragged. Each POV chapter revealed just enough before switching over to show another perspective, yet all the while, certain threads would be coming together behind the scenes, developing relationships and uncovering connections that will all make sense in due course.
If you are a fan of Agatha Christie-esque or other Golden Age-type mysteries, the sort where the settings are usually remote and cut off from the rest of the world and the characters are glamorous and over-the-top, The Guest List is a fabulous modern approach that will hit upon the same notes of suspense and intrigue. I had a blast with this one, and I certainly will not hesitate to pick up Lucy Foley’s next novel.
Audiobook Comments: The Guest List worked extremely well as an audiobook, especially with multiple narrators reading for the different parts. The story felt even more immersive with each character having their own individual “voice”, though I thought a couple of the actors might have sounded a little too similar, but that is just a minor complaint. Overall, it was a great listen.