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 picked this up as an extra in a Book of the Month box, where I get novels I normally would not pick up on my own. The premise of The Guest List is one that I thought I would like, a wedding on a private island, and the tagline that includes that “But Someone Will Not Survive it.” If I had a niche plot that I think is very underwritten and right in my wheelhouse, it would be wedding thrillers and horror. A wedding is a joyous occasion, even if there is a great deal of tension and drama behind the scenes, the bride and groom are happy, people drink, eat cake, dance, and celebrate. For someone to bring horror and murder into this joyous occassion is right in a sweet spot that is very attractive to me.
The Guest List does not disappoint. We are firmly planted in the middle of a wedding on a private island between Jules, a magazine publisher, and Will, a survival TV personality. The book is written in alternating narrative, most of them being secondary characters in the wedding party, but eventually the picture becomes more and more clear. The way that the story closes with more and more focus on the center of the story (the “But Someone Will Not Survive it” of the story) keeps me engaged and interested throughout. There is no point where the tension lets up, and for 300+ pages, we are pulled closer and closer to the truth.
The best way to sum up this entire book is the island itself. At one time inhabited, the only people who live on it now are Aoife, who happens to also be the wedding planner and Freddy her husband. The island is also rumored to be haunted, with ghosts and bogs and graveyards, but this is a set up for the real haunting, the real ghosts that all of the guests bring onto the island with them. Once there is no sort of authority, and all of the guests are on their own, and that secrets start to come out, all bets are off. There are many reasons for the guests to kill one another, and when the final acts are revealed, there is satisfaction in the ending and the entire premise of the book. There are a few things that seem a little far fetched, some guests who draw conclusions that are really thin on evidence, but this is also how people react sometimes. We sometimes connect the dots way too easily, and this leads to assumptions and mistakes, but as a whole, the moments that do seem a little bit of a reach play on human nature. The Guest List is a fun and wonderfully fast paced book, and I have highly recommended it to my friends.