Making a Murderer: A Review of The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Hello and welcome to Reading Has Ruined My Life. I don’t have anything funny to start us off this week, please forgive me. I’m just a gal trying her best! Hopefully the rest of this post will be funny.
As the title says, this week I’ll be reviewing Lucy Foley’s The Guest List.
Now, while I was reading this novel, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to review it. It’s a slow burn of a mystery novel, like snail pace slow. You don’t even find out who the murder victim is until the tail end of the novel. Due to its pace, there were many times where I found myself reading maybe five or six chapters and then messing around on my phone or computer for an hour because I couldn’t keep my focus on the book for that long.
The Guest List is an incredibly quick read. I could have read this in a day had I been able to keep my attention on the book. This was just not a book I felt like devouring in one sitting. Even now I’m finding it hard to write about this one; my attention span is all over the place.
Of course, my writer’s block could be because of how tightly woven this book is. As I’ve stated, this is a slow burn of a novel, and I’m not entirely sure how to write about it exactly. I don’t feel like I can create a synopsis that would do this book justice without spoiling something. I also don’t feel like I can give the greatest character descriptions for the same reason. And there are a lot of clues that I don’t want to accidentally spoil; it truly would ruin the book.
I can’t even spoil who it is that dies because Foley doesn’t reveal the victim till the last ten chapters of the book! The best I can give you for a synopsis is the following: Only the closest friends and family of Jules Keegan and Will Slater are welcome to spend the weekend in the manor on Cormorant Island, a remote location off the coast of Ireland, where the pair’s exclusive wedding will be held. Their wedding will be the best of the year, if not the century. Jules, the owner of the fastest growing online women’s magazine known as The Download, and Will, an up-and-coming TV star dripping with sex appeal, have spared no expanse to have the perfect wedding. Some of the guests have other plans though.
There is Johnno, the best man who is constantly drunk and on drugs for a multitude of reasons; Hannah, the semi-jealous plus one of Jules’ best friend Charlie; Olivia, Jules’ half-sister with a major, life changing secret; and Aoife, the wedding planner determined to make this wedding happen without a hitch. Each and every one of these guests has their secrets. Each and every one of these guests has a possible motive for murder.
Ya know, this book is a little bit like the board game Clue if it was slightly revamped. You still have to figure out the murderer, location, and murder weapon, but you also have to determine who the victim is. That could be a fun, new twist on Clue if you ask me.
Back to the novel though, I’ve already touched on this mystery’s pacing just a little bit, but I feel that I should talk about it more. The Guest List is a good slow burn novel. Now, I don’t mind a slow burn, but I would have preferred if the tempo was a little faster. I would have preferred if I knew the victim at the start of the novel. I would have preferred if a few more clues were revealed earlier in the novel. But those are just my preferences; I like my mysteries to read like a crime procedural. This is not that type of mystery.
This is more a classic Whodunit. And a well done one at that. It does feel like an Agatha Christie mystery in some ways; so if you’re a fan of Miss Christie, you’ll probably like The Guest List. The book also feels fresh with not knowing who it is that will ultimately die.
To me, The Guest List just feels kinda slow. It comes back to my preferences in crime novels. I like a CSI type procedural, I’d rather have a detective story where things are slightly more fast paced. To me, the start of the novel just didn’t have any tension. Foley tried to include some moments that were supposed to be scary or cause fear in readers, but those ultimately failed and felt more like awkward moments to me.
There was more fear produced by the landscape and horrendous weather at the middle to end of the book than there was by the literary equivalent of a jump scare that Foley included in the beginning. With that being said, I don’t think that the pacing is a massive issue, if one at all, I think my issue stems from my mystery novel preferences.
Listen, I’m just really good at finding issues in books that aren’t really issues.
An actual issue I have with this book is the lack of content warning. In general, books, TV shows, movies, etc. etc., need to include trigger and content warnings. The Guest List has a laundry list of triggers included within its pages and there is no warning whatsoever.
If you are triggered by any of the following, and are on the fence about reading this one, do not read if the following are an issue to you: suicidal thoughts, attempts, and generally anything having to deal with the issue, self-harm, gaslighting, revenge porn, and drug and alcohol abuse. I think I got everything that could be trigger but I still could have missed something; there is a lot going on in this book that is very relevant to the plot. There should have been a trigger and/or content warning right at the start. More media needs to do that; media in generally needs to start doing that! These are topics that can really mess someone up if he, she, or they are blindsided by it.
I personally think all these topics are covered well. I feel that there is nuance to the topics. Foley makes sure that the characters who deal with these issues are more than just their traumas. That is my opinion though, and someone with more knowledge or education on one of the topics may have a differing opinion. If you do have a differing opinion on the way these topics are presented then please let me know, I would love to have a conversation with you regarding them.
Overall, this is a well done mystery novel. If you like a good Whodunit, you’ll certainly like this one. Personally, I feel like The Guest List is a little overrated. I think about five of my close friends read this book before I did, and each of them told me this book was fantastic. I just found it to be okay. I can see where people are going crazy for it, and it is by no means a bad book, but to me it was just meh. Unpopular opinion, I know.
I don’t know what I was expecting to be truthful. I don’t know if because so many close friends had already read it and gave me glowing reviews that I expected more and was let down by this one. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I just was not blown away by this book. Again, it’s good. There really isn’t anything I hated with the writing or plot itself. Once the pacing picked up and things came to a climax during the wedding reception I was hooked. But I still can’t find anything that I really loved and need to gush about with this one.
I have Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party sitting in my TBR pile too, and I think I’ll be covering that one real soon. I want to do a Lucy Foley double feature and see if I enjoy her other work more. Next week I have a very special review though.
I’m sorry that this is such a short post that is all over the place. I’m sorry that none of my sentences feel coherent. I’ll try to do better next week with that special review. Until then, I bid you all adieu. Stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.