The Last Guest by Tess Little, 3 Stars

When Elspeth Bell attends the fiftieth birthday party of her ex-husband, Richard Bryant, the Hollywood director who launched her acting career, all she wants is to pass unnoticed through the glamorous crowd in his sprawling Los Angeles mansion. Instead, there are only seven other guests—and Richard’s pet octopus, Persephone, watching over them from her tank as the intimate party grows more surreal (and rowdy) by the hour. Come morning, Richard is dead—and all of the guests are suspects.

In the weeks that follow, each guest comes under suspicion: the school friend, the studio producer, the actress, the actor, the new partner, the manager, the cinematographer, and even Elspeth herself. What starts out as a locked-room mystery soon reveals itself to be much more complicated, as dark stories from Richard’s past surface, colliding with memories of their marriage that Elspeth vowed never to revisit. She begins to wonder not just who killed Richard, but why these eight guests were invited—and what sort of man would desire to possess a creature as mysterious and unsettling as Persephone.

The Last Guest is a stylish exploration of power—the power of memory, the power of perception, the power of one person over another.

Advanced Praise for The Last Guest:

“Dark, compelling Hollywood intrigue and a diverse cast of well-drawn characters make The Last Guest a unique locked-room mystery that readers will simply devour! It’s perfect for fans of Lucy Foley.”—Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me

“With skewering intensity and taut, unsettling prose, Tess Little plunges us into the kaleidoscopic glamour of Hollywood, where the eccentric birthday party of a brilliant, sadistic director forces the eruption of long-buried pain. The Last Guest is a sharp, unshrinking look at the costs of submission—to power and control, to ambition and desire, even to the wish to protect those we love by forcing memory underground. It’s timely, smart, and satisfying.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and When the Stars Go Dark

“Little intercuts the party’s aftermath with flashbacks to Elspeth’s past and the soiree itself, imparting tension, heft, and drive. . . . Elspeth’s emotional journey both grips and gratifies. Little is a writer to watch.”Publishers Weekly

My Review:

In The Last Guest, we follow main character, Elsbeth as she attends her ex-husband Richard’s birthday part in the Hollywood Hills. He’s invited all of the most significant people in his life to his smallish gathering. It’s kind of awkward all night, and Elsbeth spends most of the evening awaiting her and Richard’s daughter, Lillie’s arrival. She never comes, Elsbeth passes out and the next morning, Richard is dead.

It’s got all the makings of Clue, Knives Out or other murder mystery dinner party whodunnits. Who has motive? Who has opportunity? Who has the weapon? And why did Richard really throw this bizarre birthday party?

I enjoyed The Last Guest, but I had a hard time visualizing what was supposed to be luxe Hollywood gathering. I didn’t feel that the descriptions painted an opulent picture (although maybe that wasn’t the intention.) I also felt the first half was a big bogged down in explaining who the characters were and the logistics of the day after.

Once Little peeled back the curtain and we got to see a little bit more into the character’s secrets and who Richard really was, the book picked up a lot! I recommend The Last Guest to anyone who loves a good mystery. It’s a fun story to pick apart and try to figure out who the murderer really is. Special thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one just released Tuesday. Get your copy!

Indiebound

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