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Five Thrillers with a Reality TV Show at their Heart

15th April 2024

Five thrillers with a reality show at their heart. A reality television show – and an exotic location – seem to be a brilliant combination around which to write a great thriller. Couples, or individuals, are taken off to very photogenic places to compete against each other for major prizes. But sometimes it goes wrong… Killing and intrigue take over the plot. Here are five books, set across the world, in this intriguing sub-genre.

Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware – THE INDIAN OCEAN

Lyla is in a bit of a rut. Her post-doctoral research has fizzled out, she’s pretty sure they won’t extend her contract, and things with her boyfriend, Nico, an aspiring actor, aren’t going great. When the opportunity arises for Nico to join the cast of a new reality TV show, One Perfect Couple, she decides to try out with him. A whirlwind audition process later, Lyla find herself whisked off to a tropical paradise with Nico, boating through the Indian Ocean towards Ever After Island, where the two of them will compete against four other couples–Bayer and Angel, Dan and Santana, Joel and Romi, and Conor and Zana–in order to win a cash prize.

But not long after they arrive on the deserted island, things start to go wrong. After the first challenge leaves everyone rattled and angry, an overnight storm takes matters from bad to worse. Cut off from the mainland by miles of ocean, deprived of their phones, and unable to contact the crew that brought them there, the group must band together for survival. As tensions run high and fresh water runs low, Lyla finds that this game show is all too real–and the stakes are life or death.

A fast-paced, spellbinding thriller rife with intrigue and characters that feel so true to life, this novel proves yet again that Ruth Ware is the queen of psychological suspense.

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Freeze by Kate Simants – ARCTIC, GREENLAND

Frozen Out is set to be a TV sensation. On a small ship off the coast of Greenland, eight contestants will push themselves to breaking point for a £100,000 prize.

The show is Tori Matsuka’s baby. After years working her way up the ladder, she’s finally launching her own production company with Frozen Out, and the late nights, the debts, the strain on her relationship will all be worthwhile. Everything is riding on the next twelve days. For camerawoman Dee, it’s a chance to start again after the tragedy that tanked her undercover journalism career. Not even Tori, her oldest friend, knows the full truth of why Dee left her previous job, and she plans to keep it that way.

But as errors and mishaps mount on set, tempers among the cast and crew start to fray. And when one of the contestants is found dead, only Dee realises the death wasn’t natural – and from what she’s seen from behind the camera, it won’t be the last. As the Arctic ice closes in around them and all chance of escape is cut off, it becomes clear that although the world outside wants them dead, it’s the secrets inside the ship that might cost them their lives.

Packed with suspense from the first page to the last, Freeze is a must-read for fans of Shiver, The Sanatorium and One By One. This thriller isn’t just chilling: it’s sub-zero.

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The Villa by Ruth Kelly – BALEARIC ISLANDS

A Villa in Paradise

It’s destined to be the ultimate reality show: Ten contestants. A luxurious villa on a stunning private island. Every moment streamed live to a global audience who have unprecedented control over those competing for the cash prize.

The Journalist

Coerced by her callous editor to enter the show undercover, Laura is a journalist told to get the inside scoop on her fellow contestants. But once the games begin, she soon finds herself out of her depth and at the mercy of a ruthless producer – a woman willing to do anything to increase viewer numbers.

Reality TV to Die For

There is more to every contestant than meets the eye, including Laura. They all have secrets they’d like to keep buried, and the pressure in paradise quickly reaches boiling point. How far will the contestants go to secure audience votes? How far will Laura herself go? And would somebody really kill to win?

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Isolation Island by Louise Minchin – SCOTLAND

IT’S A PRIZE ANYONE WOULD KILL TO WIN…

Ten celebrities have arrived to take part in the most gruelling – and lucrative – reality survival show ever devised: two weeks completely alone on a remote Scottish island, in the depths of winter.

With a production team that seems incapable of keeping them safe, a gathering storm and the unrelenting gaze of hidden cameras, the contestants are stretched to the limit as they try and outshine their fellow competitors and hide their darkest secrets.

But when a contestant winds up dead, it soon becomes clear that the players are not just fighting for the prize, but for their lives

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The Sunlight Race by Tom Kernot – ZANZIBAR

Ben Carter is still plagued with grief two years after his fiancée was killed in a horrific terrorist attack in London. In a bid to help him move on, the team at his restaurant nominate him for The Sunlight Race, a hit one-day adventure reality TV show that has taken the UK by storm.

He gets selected and heads on an African adventure to Zanzibar with his sporty race partner Anna, sensing romance between them. The race begins but little do any of the contestants know what is about to happen. Someone with a bitter grudge against the reality TV industry has very different plans for how the show will go down. As the day of revenge unfolds, survival seems impossible.

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Enjoy our selection of Reality Show themed novels.

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