Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020)

Lucy Foley is a British author and journalist. She was born in 1986 and grew up in Devon, England. She studied English Literature at Durham University and later obtained a master’s degree in Journalism from City University in London.

Foley is best known for her crime and mystery novels. Her debut novel, The Book of Lost and Found, was published in 2015, followed by The Invitation in 2016. In 2019, she published The Hunting Party, a psychological thriller set in a remote Scottish hunting lodge, which became a bestseller and was translated into multiple languages. Foley’s other novels include The Guest List (2020), which is set on a remote Irish island and follows the events of a wedding that turns deadly, and The Paris Apartment (2021), which is a historical fiction novel set in Paris and follows the story of a woman who inherits a mysterious apartment from her grandmother.

Foley’s novels have been praised for their atmospheric settings, intricate plotting, and compelling characters.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a traditional mystery novel in the vein of Agatha Christie. Set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, the story follows a cast of characters who have gathered for a glamorous wedding celebration. As the festivities unfold, tensions rise, and secrets are revealed, culminating in a shocking and unexpected murder.

The novel is narrated from multiple characters’ perspectives, each offering a unique insight into the events leading up to the murder. These include the bride, Jules, the groom, Will, the best man, Johnno, the wedding planner, Aoife, and several guests. Each chapter provides a different piece of the puzzle, and as the narrative unfolds, the reader is left to piece together the clues and try to solve the mystery.

The characters in The Guest List are well-drawn and believable, with their flaws and motivations gradually revealed throughout the novel. Jules, the bride, is driven and ambitious but also profoundly insecure, while Will, the groom, is charming and charismatic but harbors a dark secret. Johnno, the best man, is the quintessential party boy, while Aoife, the wedding planner, is organized and efficient but has a hidden agenda. Each guest, from the ambitious magazine editor to the enigmatic children’s author, is unique and memorable in their own way.

The novel’s setting is also a standout feature, with Foley doing an excellent job of capturing the rugged beauty and isolation of the island. The sense of claustrophobia and isolation is palpable, as the characters are trapped on the island with no means of escape, and the winds and rain lash against the windows of the crumbling old castle where the wedding is being held. This sense of confinement and unease adds to the novel’s tension, making it impossible to put down.

As with any good mystery, The Guest List is full of twists and turns, with each revelation casting doubt on the identity of the murderer. Foley does an excellent job planting clues and red herrings throughout the novel, keeping the reader guessing until the end. The mystery’s resolution is satisfying and unexpected, and the denouement ties up all loose ends in an enjoyable way.

One theme throughout the novel is the idea of the façade that people present to the world. Each character is hiding something, whether it’s a past mistake, a hidden motivation, or a secret desire. As the narrative unfolds, these façades begin to crumble, and the characters are forced to confront the truth about themselves and each other. This theme is particularly well-realized, like Jules, who is desperate to maintain the illusion of perfection even as her carefully constructed life unravels.

The Guest List is a well-crafted and engaging mystery novel that will appeal to fans of the genre. Foley’s writing is evocative and atmospheric, and the characters are memorable and well-drawn. The setting is vividly portrayed, adding to the sense of tension and unease that permeates the novel. The mystery is satisfyingly complex, with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing until the very end. This is a must-read for fans of traditional mystery novels like Agatha Christie, and a great introduction to the genre for those who are new to it. You can get a copy of this landmark novel from Amazon here.


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