John reviews The Guest List by Lucy Foley!
As someone with a soft spot for the whole "group of people trapped in (location), hiding secrets, whilst one amongst them is a killer" genre, I was discretely excited upon discovering the works of Lucy Foley. Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, (or it's less PC original title) of course, being the standard by which all others are judged. There's an instant allure in the prospect of getting to know a bunch of strangers when, as a reader, you don't know whom you can trust.
In The Guest List, the answer is no one. Every single character is simply a terrible, terrible person. From the women who spend the entire book thinking nasty thoughts about each other to the men who regress to the level of naughty schoolboys any time a bottle opens, every single character has some level of detestability. The main mystery flowing through the book is not so much who is the murderer, but who is the murderee, so not liking any of the characters can work as both a plus and a minus. If, as a reader, you're the kind of person who hopes to see nasty characters get what's coming to them, you'll be glued to the pages. But it works as a negative, too. Without forming an emotional bond with any of the cast, it's difficult to care who ultimately gets offed.
The story unravels through flashbacks, flipping between the present, where rumours of a body begin to spread unease on the wedding night, to scenes unravelling in the days leading up to the wedding. As a framing technique, this can be frustrating. The desire to know the victim is incentive enough to keep reading, but is also something that could have been revealed earlier perhaps.
Ultimately, the story wraps up in a satisfying manner, although the amount of coincidences taking place borders on, and some places crosses into, ridiculous territory. At a wedding, you'd expect some connection between the guests After all, they have at least one couple in common. But The Guest List goes a little beyond that, delivering a twist that's surprising more because of its appearance from left field than because it's appropriately shocking.
That said, I was entertained throughout, so I give this novel a respectable FOUR annoying arseholes out of a possible five.