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Ten Great modern escapist thrillers set in terrific locations around the world

4th August 2023

Ten Great modern escapist thrillers set in terrific locations around the world.

This summer, why not take a break with the most escapist ‘new’ book trend — the destination thriller, or let’s call it ‘trip lit’. Not our words, but those of author Emma Rowley, who has collated a list of great modern escapist thrillers in the Mail Online  Below, we have taken her original list and expanded it further, including more titles that have been published recently; and titles that are coming up soon.

However, we can’t really create a modern day list of escapist thrillers without a quick nod to the grandparent of the genre. First published well over 25 years ago, The Beach by Alex Garland set the gold standard for destination/escapist thrillers. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It was one of the books that ultimately inspired us to set up TripFiction.com.

Now, novels with a luxury setting have superseded the backpacking adventure thriller (as epitomised by The Beach). I mean, what could possibly go wrong in a luxury environment. Plenty can go wrong, it would seem….

We have been building the TripFiction website for the last 10 year (where we collate and review books that are strong on location). We have our ear to the ground: publishers and authors and our wonderful community members keep us in the loop about upcoming titles that fit perfectly with the travel-by-book concept. This Summer there are some really heady titles to transport readers to wonderful locations (Essex, even!) and now you too can head off to some riveting locations where luxury is often a byword but doesn’t spare the campers from intrigue and harm! I am also sensing a bit of a trend when it comes to finding titles at the moment ! Here is our list of ten great modern escapist thrillers.

The Dive by Sara Ochs (Thailand)

Escape to paradise.
Scuba diving instructor Cass leads her students out for their first dive off the beautiful coast of Koh Sang, Thailand’s world-famous party island. It’s supposed to be a life-changing experience, but things quickly spiral out of control…

Leave your secrets behind.
By the time she gets back to the shore, one of her students is dead, another badly injured, and she knows that her idyllic life is about to be smashed to pieces on the rocks.

But don’t get lost for ever…
Someone has discovered Cass’s secret, and on an island as remote as this, accidents happen. Plenty of backpackers choose to stay here for ever – but some are never heard from again….

The Getaway by Ross Armstrong (Island in the Aegean Sea)

One private island. Seven guests. One killer…

The perfect holiday. The perfect murder. The perfect beach read…

Get away from your problems.
Multimillionaire Robert Rathwell and his entourage arrive at their private Greek island. White sand, turquoise water, the perfect place to relax. But this is no ordinary family, and this holiday will be their last.

Get away from your life.
The next morning, a scream shatters their peaceful world. Someone has been murdered, his body arranged to make it look like suicide. Everyone has a motive and, under the burning sun, secrets quickly simmer to the surface.

Get away with murder.
Soon the guests see a darker, more violent side to paradise. Because the Rathwells don’t just own the island; they own the people on it. And they can do whatever they like – maybe even commit murder…

The Villa by Ruth Kelly (The Balearics)

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?

The Honeymoon by Kate Gray (Bali)

Two happy couples.
One dead body.
A whole load of secrets.
Married life wasn’t meant to start like this.

On honeymoon in Bali, you hit it off with another newlywed couple and celebrate your last night at a fancy cliff-side restaurant.

No one predicted the evening would end with a dead body. But it was an accident, right? A tragic accident.

The honeymoon may be over but it soon becomes clear that there’s another side to this story . . . and your life depends on uncovering it.

Many marriages can survive anything – but when it starts on a lie is it really ’til death do us part?

The Beach Party by Nikki Smith (Mallorca)

Six friends.
The holiday of their dreams.
Only they know what they did that summer…

1989: The tunes are loud and the clothes are louder when a group of friends arrives in Mallorca for a post-graduation holiday of decadence and debauchery at a luxury villa.

A beach party marks the pinnacle of their fun, until it isn’t fun any longer. Because amidst the wild partying, sand flying from dancing feet and revellers leaping from yachts, an accident happens. Suddenly, the night of a lifetime becomes a living nightmare.

Now: The truth about that summer has been collectively buried. But someone knows what happened that night.

And they want the friends to pay for what they did.

The Contest by Karen Hamilton (Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME. A PRIZE WORTH KILLING FOR.

We call it the Great Escape. The annual trip where my boss asks us expert travel guides to escort a group of privileged, uber-wealthy clientele on some far-flung expedition, a cut-throat contest for riches and glory.

The stakes have never been higher, nor the challenge harder: I must summit Mount Kilimanjaro before my rival guide to win the ultimate prize.

But this once-in-a-lifetime trip was never about winning to me. I’m here for answers, even if no one is ready to give them up. By the time we reach the top I will have the truth, if it kills me.

THE QUESTION IS, HOW FAR WILL THEY GO TO KEEP ME QUIET?

The Club by Ellery Lloyd (Essex)

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

For fans of The White Lotus and Big Little Lies, Ellery Lloyd’s The Club is an exhilarating, addictive read, telling a story of ambition, excess, and what happens when people who have everything – or nothing – to lose are pushed to their imit.

There’s no place like Home . . .

The Home Group is a collection of ultra-exclusive private members’ clubs and a global phenomenon, and the opening of its most ambitious project yet – Island Home, a forgotten island transformed into the height of luxury – is billed as the celebrity event of the decade.

But as the first guests arrive, the weekend soon proves deadly – because it turns out that even the most beautiful people can keep the ugliest secrets and, in a world where reputation is everything, they’ll do anything to keep it.

If your name’s on the list, you’re not getting out . . .

Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum (Fire Island, off Long Island)

The families on the island have been vacationing here for years; the Weinsteins, the Metzners, the Grobels – and unlucky in love Rachel Woolf.

Outsiders aren’t welcome. That is except for Robert, the handsome new tennis coach, who some people are going out of their way to make very welcome . . .

But the problem when everyone knows everyone is that secrets can’t stay secret forever.

And when a body is found face-down beneath the boardwalk, they realise that maybe one of them is worse than they thought . . .

Stylish, subversive and darkly comedic, this is a story of what’s lurking under the surface of picture-perfect lives in a place where everyone has something to hide . . .

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (South Devon)

This is a warning for all our guests at the wellness retreat.
A woman’s body has been found at the bottom of the cliff beneath the yoga pavilion.
We believe her death was a tragic accident, though DS Elin Warner has arrived on the island to investigate.
A storm has been forecast, but do not panic. Stick together and please ignore any rumours you might have heard about the island and its history.
As soon as the weather clears, we will arrange boats to take you back to the mainland.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your stay.

How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott (Thailand)

The perfect getaway – to get away with murder…

Georgie, Lissa and Bronwyn have been best friends since they met on their college swimming team. Now Lissa is dead – drowned off the coast of the remote island where her second husband owns a luxury resort. But could a star open-water swimmer really have drowned? Or is something more sinister going on?

Brought together for Lissa’s memorial, Georgie, Bron, Lissa’s grieving husband and their friends find themselves questioning the circumstances around Lissa’s death – and each other. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the guests on the island, it slowly dawns on them that Lissa’s death was only the beginning. Nobody knows who they can trust. Or if they’ll make it off the island alive…

BONUS BOOKS

The Retreat by Karen King (Andalucía)

The sunlight sparkles on the bright turquoise of the pool, next to the freshly painted house with its trailing pink flowers and terracotta roof. I feel a jolt of pride. My partner José and I have dreamed of this moment, opening our perfect home nestled in the mountains of southern Spain to its first guests for a few days of total relaxation.

We’ve worked so hard for this, pouring all our energy and our savings into renovating the old farmhouse. I’ve started over, begun a new life. This place is my escape from everything that happened before.

But a stab of fear pierces my happiness as our guests arrive and I recognise Saskia. She was my best friend many years ago… before she betrayed me. She says she’s truly sorry, and wants us to start again. Maybe she’s telling the truth – but can I really forgive her?

Then things start to go wrong when I discover our beautiful water fountain stained a deep red. It feels like a warning. And my worst fears are confirmed when I find a note in my bedroom. My heart pounds as the black capitals scream at me, revealing my terrible secret.

Saskia swears she has nothing to do with it. Which means that someone else here knows the truth about me. And they’ll stop at nothing to get their revenge…

Bad Tourists by Caro Carver (The Maldives) — coming July 2024

Is it ever a good idea to go on holiday with friends?

Darcy, Camilla and Kate have each come on this trip of a lifetime for a reason – to celebrate a divorce, to find love, to try to put a traumatic past behind them.

Their dream getaway? The Sapphire Island Resort in the Maldives. With crystal-clear waters and sun-drenched white sand beaches, relaxation is guaranteed.

But all is not as it seems in paradise, and this is no ordinary friendship.

They’ve got nine days to go . . . and old wounds are already reopening.

Will they all make the return journey?

The Island by Catherine Cooper (The Maldives)

The perfect escape, or the perfect trap?

When a select group of influencers and journalists receive an exclusive invitation to a luxury resort in the Maldives, it seems like the ultimate press trip.
But when the island is cut off during a storm and people start dying, it looks like someone has murder in mind.
Are the guests really who they seem to be, or does each one of them have a secret to hide?
Something they would kill for?

What We Did in the Storm by Tina Baker (Tresco) —

On the beautiful and windswept island of Tresco, two worlds live side by side. The wealthy visitors come by helicopter to stay at their lavish time-share properties. The estate staff travel by boat, and work all hours to keep them happy, to keep the money flowing in. But while the blue skies and savage waves make the island seem a wild paradise, under the surface the inhabitants are concealing more than they dare reveal. The truths about their marriages, their love affairs, and what they do in the darkness while their neighbours are sleeping.

As black clouds come rolling in and a storm hits the island, truths and rumours begin to tumble out, wreaking terrible damage. In the midst of the tempest, two women are attacked and one goes missing. The secrets of this fragile community can no longer be hidden if it hopes to survive. The islanders must finally reveal what they did in the storm, no matter the cost.

The Guests by Nikki Smith — The Maldives (coming June 2024)

The resort of their dreams.
A destination to die for…

WELCOME TO PARADISE!

Or so the staff say when they greet the Hamiltons at the idyllic Asana Fushi resort in the Maldives.

And it starts off that way: champagne picnics on powder-white sand, snorkelling in the serene blue sea and moonlit walks under the stars.

But lies lurk beneath the luxury because each of the guests has a secret, and they’re not the only ones.

How can a once-in-a-lifetime trip turn into the holiday from hell?

The Rip by Holly Craig — Rottnest Island, Australia

Luxury villas on hot white sand, views for miles over turquoise water.

Flawless hostess Penny gathers guests to an island for her husband’s birthday celebrations. But she soon regrets inviting self-obsessed Eloise…When a child vanishes on the night of the party, their perfect island weekend is ripped apart.

Even paradise harbours murky secrets…

Has he been taken? Has he drowned? In the panic to find any trace, Penny casts about for someone to blame—even if that person is her own daughter, Rosie.

Even clear waters descend to pitch black…

But it’s not the first time Rosie’s been attacked by her mother. And it’s not the first time she’s turned to Eloise for support. As the sun beats down and dark secrets rise to the surface, can they find the missing child before it’s too late—or will this sudden disappearance endanger them all?

…and someone among them knows the whole shocking truth.

The Fury by Alex Michaelides — The Cyclades 

There were seven of us in all, trapped on the island.One of us was a murderer . . .’
On a small private Greek island, former movie star Lana Farrar – an old friend – invites a select group of us to stay.
It’ll be hot, sunny, perfect. A chance to relax and reconnect – and maybe for a few hidden truths to come out.
Because nothing on this island is quite what it seems.
Not Lana. Not her guests.
Certainly not the murderer – furiously plotting their crime . . .
But who am I?
My name is Elliot Chase, and I’m going to tell you a story unlike any you’ve ever heard.

Her Last Summer by Emily Freud — Thailand

No body. No crime?

Twenty years ago, Mari vanished while backpacking through Thailand with her boyfriend, Luke. He was accused of murder, but has always insisted he’s innocent. Besides, her body was never found.

Now, he’s finally ready to talk. And filmmaker Cassidy Chambers wants to be the one to uncover what really happened, back then, in the dark of the jungle.

But as she delves deeper into the past, Cassidy begins to fear what lies ahead, and the secrets buried along the way.

The Escape by Ruth Kelly — FRANCE

THE PERFECT OFFER

When struggling influencer couple Adele and Jack post a crowdfunding video online, they’re amazed when a mysterious benefactor offers to buy them a crumbling French chateau. It’s the lifeline they need to leave all their troubles behind.

THE PERFECT DREAM

For Adele, it’s a dream come true. She will post videos of the renovation as thousands of online subscribers follow their journey. But the chateau is not all it seems and the local community is far from welcoming.

THE PERFECT NIGHTMARE

Then Adele’s videos suddenly stop. Her sister Erin visits to make sure she’s OK, but the couple have vanished. Between the obsession of Adele’s fans and the claustrophobic secrecy of the nearby town, Erin must unravel the shocking truth behind the couple’s disappearance . . .

The Trip by Phoebe Morgan — Bangkok and Ko Samet 

How well do you know your friends?

Four friends on the holiday of a lifetime. Until a vicious murder shatters their paradise.

Four friends who’d do anything for each other, until now.

Only one of them committed a crime.

But all four know how to keep a secret.

And they’re all guilty of something…

Buy Now

 

The Beach House by Beverley Jones — Pacific Northwest 

The perfect place to hide. Or so she thought . . .

When Grace Jensen returns to her home in the ocean-front town of Lookout Beach one day, she finds a body in a pool of blood and a menacing gift left for her: a knife, a coil of rope and handcuffs.

The community of Lookout Beach are shocked by such a brutal intrusion in their safe, close-knit community – particularly to a family as successful and well-liked as the Jensens – and a police investigation begins to find the trespasser.

But Grace knows who’s after her. She might have changed her name and moved across the world, deciding to hide on the Oregon coast, but she’s been waiting seventeen years for what happened in the small Welsh town where she grew up to catch-up with her.

Grace might seem like the model neighbour and mother, but nobody in Lookout Beach – not even her devoted husband Elias – knows the real her. Or how much blood is on her hands.

Buy Now

 

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz — Wisconsin / Chile

REESE WITHERSPOON’S BOOK CLUB PICK August 2021

On holiday in Chile with her best friend Kristen, Emily is having the time of her life.

Until one night, she finds their hotel suite covered in blood.

Kristen claims a backpacker attacked her. She shouted, but no-one heard. She struggled, but he was too strong.

She had no option but to kill him.

With no evidence of the assault, Emily must help her hide the body. . .

Back home, Emily tries to forget what happened, but a surprise visit from Kristen forces her to confront the events of that night.

As the walls close in, Emily asks herself: can her closest friend be trusted?

Buy Now

 


‘Trip lit’ per se is not a new concept for us (we have been banging on about it now for 10 years), but nevertheless we are delighted to see that the idea of travelling by book – and the hashtag #destinationthriller – is becoming  much more mainstream and the pleasures of walking into new environments and wonderful settings are being appreciated. Any titles you would add to this list? Drop them in the Comments below.

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