The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a clever, thrilling murder mystery that keeps you guessing as the story progresses. Full of secrets, lies and twists and turns, The Guest List is a classic whodunnit novel that makes you suspicious and untrustworthy of all it’s characters. What are they hiding? What secrets do they not want everyone to know? What skeletons do they have in their closet?
And, most of all, how far are they willing to go to protect them?
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?
I enjoyed reading The Guest List – I love a good mystery – and we get to read the perspectives of Aoife, Hannah, Jules, Johnno, Olivia and a little with Will. It was a bit much for me, reading so many different perspectives, but you did need that to get the whole story to see why so many people could have been the murderer.
It also jumps back and forth between the present and the events leading up to the murder. I enjoyed this – it created suspense, kept us guessing, and kept us on the edge of our seat.
But back to the characters – there was so much drama there was no wonder so many people could have wanted Will dead. He was involved in every person’s story. That was the only thing for me that was a bit much. How could one person be so involved with all those horrible actions that impacted so many of the other characters?
It was a little bit too much for me, personally, and made it feel slightly unrealistic that all these terrible and horrific things went unnoticed and unspoken of with Will’s such high profile. Surely one of these things would have come out before the wedding day?
However, the thing that was most impressive about The Guest List was its message.
Multiple times throughout the novel there was a sense of older siblings trying to protect or find justice for their younger, more vulnerable siblings. Which revealed a deeper message to Foley’s novel: It’s vulnerability – not hunger, not anger, not spite – that’s key to predator-prey relationships. The skill, the viciousness, the size of the hunter matters less than the size, the strength, the nature, the health and the ferocity of the hunted.
Vulnerability explains why predators tend to go after the young, sick, the ones who are considered weak.
If you consider Will to be the predator then the others – Darcey, Alice, Olivia – are the prey, the ones who got hurt because they were ‘vulnerable’ – nice, young, unassuming, insecure.
Near the end of the novel, Johnno – the best man – explains how the way they grew up at high school turned them into hunters, what could happen if you weren’t the same.
‘Will could be a dick at high school at times, but we all were. You had to be, to survive in that place.’– Lucy Foley, The Guest List
It made us into animals.
I think of the kid, how he was an example of what happened if you weren’t – if you were too good, too honest, if you didn’t understand the rules.
It’s not just the size of the hunter, that’s almost irrelevant, it’s the vulnerability of those they go after, the hunted, that is the reason they are chosen as prey.
Talking about Darcey, Will says:
“A little kid like him – he wouldn’t ever have survived in the real world. He was a runt. If it wasn’t us, it would have been something else.”
– Lucy Foley, The Guest List
That’s how he justifies his actions. But what we learn from Foley in her ability to make the older siblings stand up and right the wrongs of their vulnerable siblings, is that we need to look after the nice and loving and kind and caring members of society, to make sure they’re protected.