The Last Guest by Tess Little

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Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: October 5th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible |B&N |World Cat


Goodreads Synopsis:

A glamorous birthday dinner in the Hollywood Hills ends with the famous host dead and every guest under suspicion in this dark, cinematic suspense debut reminiscent of an Agatha Christie page-turner crossed with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

When actress Elspeth Bell attends the fiftieth birthday party of her ex-husband Richard Bryant, the Hollywood director who launched her career, all she wants is to pass unnoticed through the glamorous crowd in his sprawling Los Angeles mansion. Instead, there are just 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 of the guests come 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 Elspeth’s memories of their marriage that she vowed never to revisit. Elspeth 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.


First Line:

We believed he had died from an overdose. There was no reason to suspect otherwise: limbs limp on the couch; pink vomit splattered across his shirt, dribbling from the corners of his mouth; the Gucci belt, the residue-stained needles – our own memories, in flashes and throbs and waves.

the last guest by tess little

When I read the blurb for The Last Guest, I was intrigued. I couldn’t wait to read a book where the mystery was laid out initially, and untangling what happened would take the whole book. Then, I read the book, and I wasn’t that thrilled with it.

The synopsis for The Last Guest was this: Elspeth was invited to her ex-husband’s, Richard, birthday party. She went only because their teenaged daughter, Lillie, was supposed to be there. But, Lillie was a no-show. Elspeth decided to make the best of it and woke up to her ex dead of an apparent heroin overdose the following day. But the police are not too sure that it was an accident and are interviewing everyone there. What happened the night of the party? Was Richard killed? Who would want him dead? Or was his death a tragic accident?

The plotline for The Last Guest was challenging to follow. The plotline went from the death to the past to the present and then back with zero lead-ins. I would be reading a paragraph that took place the night of Richard’s death, and then the next would be Elspeth sitting in her daughter’s house. It was confusing to read and frustrated me.

I couldn’t get a feel as to who killed Richard and why. Everyone at that party had an ax to grind with him. Richard was not a good or nice man. He made it to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy by being ruthless. Hell, even the octopus, Persephone, had reason to kill him. So, when the author finally revealed the details of his death, I wasn’t surprised at all.

I liked Elspeth, but her covering for Richard after he died left a bad taste in my mouth. She lied to everyone about him, including her daughter. But, as details came out about how badly she was abused, I did understand why she lied to Lillie. I didn’t know why she kept lying to everyone else. The end did little to soothe me. It seemed like it was too little too late.

The suspense angle of the book was good, but it was broken up when the book swung between present and past. A promising storyline with the housekeeper fizzled out (I wanted to know why she hated Elspeth so much).

The mystery angle was just as good but again, kept getting broken up with the book swinging between present and past.

The end of The Last Guest was a little “eh.” I understand why Elspeth decided to do what she did, but it was too little too late. I also got a little emotional with what happened to Persephone.


I would recommend The Last Guest to anyone over the age of 21. There is language, violence, and drug use.

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