»The lights go out. In an instant, everything is in darkness. The band stop their playing. Inside the marquee the wedding guests squeal and clutch at one another.«
These are the strong, foreshadowing first words of this guilty pleasure of a book…
There’s a wedding on a deserted island, several dark (slightly convoluted) mysteries from the past and on this brightest of days, a severe storm is brewing… This, with a small omission maybe, could have been the blurb to this often-reviewed Goodreads Choice Awards winner of 2020.
This slightly Agatha-Christie-inspired setting lent itself to some good whodunnit murder mystery and I fully expected one. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite what I got: What I got was an attempt at showing me the true characters of the bride, the groom, their families and friends, down to Hannah, the Plus-one.
That attempt wasn’t even bad and rather entertaining. It was slightly marred by the fact that everyone basically “sounded” and “felt” alike. We spend much time “in the head” (or rather: the thoughts) of our heroines and heroes and all their thoughts are expressed similarly. Plus: Only on its last pages does the book finally reveal the actual murder victim. It took us “only” about 75% of the book to get to the “main course” – but at least the voyage was pleasant.
From that stems, this is not a fast-paced or true whodunit book at all: The victim wasn’t exactly likeable and most of their guests would have had a reason to kill him. And we know all that at this point – so it kind of doesn’t matter who the culprit is.
The ever-changing perspectives were actually interesting, well-implemented and clearly marked, which, I think, is important to avoid potential confusion. Less helpful were the annoying jumps between “now” (the night of the wedding day) and a day or a few hours before. Such a classically-inspired mystery would have probably benefited from a chronological order.
And despite all these flaws I felt mostly interested, entertained and wanted to keep turning the ‘pages’ of my Kindle. The brief, fast-paced chapters leading to the finale were a very entertaining feature as well. Of course, this is literary fast food but at least it’s good fun.
All in all, I had a truly pleasant time reading “The Guest List” and will take a look at the further works of Foley. Four of five stars.