I read this because I liked The Guest List so much. This one is not quite as good, in my opinion. It’s still a fun read and I recommend it to any mystery fan who hasn’t already read The Guest List. A group of thirty-something Oxford alums gather for an annual New Year’s Eve party, this time in a remote Scottish hunting lodge. The characters are mostly vain, entitled, hard-drinking, immature louts behaving badly. The characters aren’t likeable and aren’t supposed to be. From the subtitle we intuit that a murder will take place, which indeed we do learn early on. However, the author has cleverly concealed who it is until late in the book, referring at first to the victim only as “the guest.” With this bunch, we’d be quite happy if they all got bumped off.
Most of the narration jumps back a few days to give us the backstory on all the characters leading up to the present. It is told from multiple viewpoints, mostly in the first person. It would seem original if I hadn’t already read The Guest List. Personally, I like narration from multiple viewpoints, but not everyone does. The same goes for jumping back and forth in time, although I’m lukewarm on that. Stylistically the two books are so similar that I recommend reading only one as the second one you read will seem derivative. In particular, they both provide us with two main mysteries to ponder for most of the book: who’s the victim and who’s the murderer. That’s clever once; twice is lazy and irritating. The characters are all very similar in the two books, as well. The ending was a bit disappointing, but also had a nice touch I enjoyed that was missing in the other book.