Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Book 14 of 2021
Reading Time: 3hrs 33mins
Date Finished: April 16, 2021
Content Warnings: Murder, swearing, mental illness, attempted suicide, emotional manipulation, cheating, drug & alcohol abuse, bullying, rape, & abortion
What Worked For Me: The mystery, multiple perspectives, the atmosphere
What Didn’t Work For Me: Annoying side characters
I think this was another recommendation from the video about “stuck with the killer” tropes. What is it about me picking up two books with the word “guest” in the title? I kept mixing them up when I picked them up from the library and spent the first 40 pages of The Perfect Guests wondering why they weren’t on an island for a wedding until I realized that I had mixed up the plot and titles.
This takes place on a small island off the coast of Ireland as a wedding is about to take place. Some guests are meeting for the first time, others are being reunited after years apart. Tensions run high as the weather gets worse, and in the midst of the chaos, someone dies.
Here’s the thing about isolated settings with little cell reception - they either work super well or they don’t. In this case, it worked really well. No one could really reach the mainland because a storm was brewing and it affected cell and wifi signals. Being crammed onto a tiny island where the wind blows like crazy and large waves are crashing against rocks, adding alcohol and some toxic dude-bros, and you have a great recipe for disaster and drama.
The island was as much of a character within the story as the people were. It took on a personality as time went on. The more twisted the story got, the more dangerous the island became. From hosting a happy occasion to receiving a dead body. It’s almost like the island was forcing the characters to face their demons. I’m pretty sure that if the island could talk, it would berate some of them for their stupidity and smack them on the head. That’d be pretty painful though, getting hit by an island…
Most of the characters were unlikeable and intentionally so. Every man except for Freddy was absolute trash and I’m glad the book never excused their behavior. If anything, everything they experienced on the island forced them to realize what kind of people they were and how they wanted to face that. The women weren’t much better either, save for Hannah, Olivia, and Aoifa. Basically, everyone had their problems and most were in denial about them. But that made it so much more fun to read. It’s a little sadistic to say that I enjoyed watching everyone break down, but it’s true. I liked watching them fall apart and realize that they have to deal with their problems instead of running away or pretending it never happened.
One thing I think this book tackled really well is toxic masculinity. We see it in several male characters in different ways. An over-confident jerk, a drunk, some dude-bros reliving their high school glory days, a terrible excuse for a husband, and a man who’s been married five times. The more we get to know about each man, the more we understand that their problematic behavior has led to the unhappiness they’ve caused themselves and others. And each of them has to pay in some way.
None of the twists were particularly twisty or surprising to me, but I loved the way Foley built tension as time went on. You’d think that the book took longer, but everything happens in the span of about two days. All the character conflicts were well-paced and worked well with the little twists that were being thrown in along the way. For a debut book, it had some really good reveals. Nothing felt like it was revealed too soon or too late. Experienced mystery readers or people who tend to pick up on clues quickly might find it a bit easy to guess, but I don’t think that took away from the fun of watching it all unfold. In fact, it was more fun to know the twist and see how the characters would react when everything was revealed. For some of them, it was so satisfying to see the characters get what they deserved.
I’ll be recommending this one to people looking to get into the genre or who don’t mind more slow-burn mysteries. If you ever feel like picking up a book where you can be mad at almost everyone for being terrible, go ahead and pick this up.