Trouble in Paradise: 6 Thrillers with Vacations Gone Wrong

May 19 2022
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In our mundane work-a-day lives, there is often only one thing that gives us the strength and motivation to continue staring at our screens: the promise of not working. That’s right, you may not have gone outside this week because your bedroom is your office, but the calendar shows Spring, which means vacation season is upon us.

And I don’t know about you but there’s nothing more enjoyable than reading while on vacation. Better yet, even if you’re unable to take a lavish trip this year or are in desperate need of a quick escape, books about vacations can be sanity-saving—and just as compelling. Especially when it’s a vacation gone horribly wrong.

Thankfully we have just the list of the best books about such thrilling vacays gone awry that you simply can’t pass up.

Deep Water
by Emma Bamford

It’s your dream classic vacation: you and your partner throw all of your life savings into a lavish yacht to explore the world’s most exotic lands during your honeymoon. At least that’s what Jake and Virginie had in mind in Emma Bamford’s dazzling debut, DEEP WATER. That is until arriving at what they thought was an island of pristine, isolated beaches on a remote island, only to find they’re not alone. Filled with expat sailors and secrets, the island is more nightmare than dream as the couple describe to Danial Tengku, captain of a Navy vessel that finds the yacht and its passengers in distress, confessing to a collection of murders. It’s then up to Captain Tengku and his crew to uncover what exactly happened and whether Virginie’s claim to have “killed them all” is a story that holds any water. And do so before the Navy vessel’s crew become part of the island’s murderous mysteries themselves. With propulsive writing and thrilling twists and turns, DEEP WATER is the perfect escape to keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.

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Deep Water
Emma Bamford

The dark side of paradise is exposed when a terrified couple reveals their daunting experience on a remote island to their rescuers—only to realize they’re still in the grips of the island’s secrets—in this intense and startling debut in the tradition of Into the Jungle and The Ruins.

When a Navy vessel comes across a yacht in distress in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, Captain Danial Tengku orders his ship to rush to its aid. On board the yacht is a British couple: a horribly injured man, Jake, and his traumatized wife, Virginie, who breathlessly confesses, “It’s all my fault. I killed them.”

Trembling with fear, she reveals their shocking story to Danial. Months earlier, the couple had spent all their savings on a yacht, full of excitement for exploring the high seas and exotic lands together. They start at the busy harbors of Malaysia and, through word of mouth, Jake and Virginie learn about a tiny, isolated island full of unspoiled beaches. When they arrive, they discover they are not the only visitors and quickly become entangled with a motley crew of expat sailors. Soon, Jake and Virginie’s adventurous dream turns into a terrifying nightmare.

Now, it’s up to Danial to determine just how much truth there is in Virginie’s alarming tale. But when his crew make a shocking discovery, he realizes that if he doesn’t act soon, they could all fall under the dark spell of the island.

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The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik

As Erica Ferencik makes clear in the opening chapter of her thrilling work, THE RIVER AT NIGHT, Winifred Allen needs a vacation. In addition to losing her brother and witnessing the end of her fifteen-year marriage, Wini finds that her job is slowly crushing her spirit. So, when her yearly girls’ getaway trip comes around, her friends are all too eager to rush Wini out into the exhilarating wild for some whitewater rafting. But when Wini’s concerns become all too true and the group of friends find themselves stranded in the wilderness without their boat or survival supplies, they can’t help but be lured toward a fire on the mountainside. Initially thinking they’re saved when they find a camp, the group quickly realizes these “survivors” are not to be trusted. A look into the wildness inside all of us, THE RIVER AT NIGHT will leave you out of breath, not to mention a little reserved when planning your next adventure into nature.

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The River at Night
Erica Ferencik

A “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) thriller set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, The River at Night charts the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters and visceral prose, The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

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The Hunted
by Roz Nay

Like a lot of us, Stevie Erickson is in desperate need of some time off. Following the death of her grandmother, Stevie is left with all of the responsibilities of running her grandmother Nattie’s pub in Maine. Her boyfriend, Jacob, seeks to save Stevie from the dreariness of everyday life by accepting a job as a diver for an eco-tourist camp on Rafiki Island off the coast of Tanzania, insisting Stevie come along for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. While the trip gets off to a rocky start in Kenya, where Stevie can’t shake the feeling of being watched, the two find comfort in another traveling couple Leo and Tamsin, a beautiful pair that are keen to turn a blossoming friendship into so much more. As flirtation turns into down-right obsession, a murder on the island leaves Stevie spinning as a mystery begins to unravel and suspicions ramp up. A seductive thriller at its very best, Roz Nay’s THE HUNTED is the complete encapsulation of a vacation gone horribly wrong, perfect for lovers of high-wire suspense.

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The Hunted
Roz Nay

The Beach meets The Woman in Cabin 10 in this twisty new thriller about two couples who meet backpacking through Africa, but what begins as friendship quickly turns to obsession, with deadly consequences—from bestselling author Roz Nay.

Stevie Erickson is looking for a fresh start. The sudden loss of her grandmother has sent her life into a tailspin, dredging up old losses and putting a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, Jacob. So when Jacob is offered a job as a diver for GoEco, a dive operation for ecotourists on Rafiki, a beautiful, secluded island off the coast of Tanzania, he thinks it’s just the adventure they need and Stevie reluctantly agrees to go with him.

Their trip gets off to a rough start with a nighttime scare at their first hostel. Already fragile, Stevie can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. Things improve when they meet seasoned backpackers Leo and Tamsin, a drop-dead gorgeous couple who instantly take a shine to Stevie and Jacob.

But on Rafiki Island, their new friendship is put to the test, as is Stevie and Jacob’s own relationship. And when innocent flirting goes too far, past truths surface, exposing a killer in their midst—a killer whose sights are set on Stevie.

A high dive into the dangers of obsession, this sinister and seductive thriller will leave you breathless.

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All By Myself, Alone
by Mary Higgins Clark

If there was ever an author to provide reliable thrillers that sweep you off your feet and carry you away from your everyday life, it’s “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark. And her work ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE is just the book to define what it means for a vacation to go very, very wrong. Following the embarrassment of nearly marrying a felon fiancé, gem and jewel expert Celia Killbride is seeking escape aboard the Queen Charlotte, the finest ship to sail the seas since the Titanic (as billionaire owner Gregory Morrison would have you believe). Aboard the luxury cruise liner is world-famous Lady Emily Harworth, keeper of an emerald necklace said to have once been owned by Cleopatra. But when Lady Em is found dead three days into the journey, and the necklace is now missing, Celia takes it upon herself to solve the mystery. With no shortage of suspects on the cruise, including Lady Em’s investment advisor, an Interpol agent, and an attorney hell-bent on taking the necklace, our gemologist must employ her own brand of detective work to identify the murder—and avoid become the next victim. One of Mary Higgins Clark’s last works, ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE is nothing short of a mystery masterpiece that will keep you invested all the way through.

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All By Myself, Alone
Mary Higgins Clark

From the Queen of Suspense and #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a thrilling mystery aboard a luxurious but deadly cruise.

Fleeing the disastrous and humiliating last-minute arrest of her fiancé on the eve of their wedding, Celia, an expert on gems and jewelry, is hoping to escape from reality on a glamorous cruise ship.

But it is not to be. On board in the most luxurious suite is the elderly and world-famous Lady Emily Harworth. Immensely wealthy, Lady Em is the owner of a priceless emerald necklace that she intends to leave to the Smithsonian on her death.

Three days later Lady Em is found dead—and the necklace is missing. Is it the work of her apparently devoted secretary, or her lawyer-executor, both of whom she had invited on board for the cruise?

Celia, with the help of her new friends Willy and Alvirah Meehan—who are splurging on their wedding anniversary—sets out to find who the killer is, not realizing that she may have put a target on her back.

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Heatwave
by Victor Jestin

Summer at seventeen is all but fun and games for Leo, visiting the South of France with his family for vacation. While on the beach, slightly isolated from the typical adolescent activities going on further up on the sand, Leo hears sounds of struggling. It is a fellow teenager Oscar, who is slowly being strangled by the ropes of a swing as Leo, paralyzed by panic, does nothing. But he’s quick to act once Oscar stops thrashing, burying the body of the boy that liked the same girl that Leo’s been fantasizing about for weeks. Stricken with guilt and fear, readers accompany Leo in the aftermath of this haunting event as he experiences a range of emotions that magnify the angst and confusion of any teen, let alone one confronted by a death. Originally published in French, HEATWAVE is a visceral story of crime and guilt told by a promising young author in the tradition Alice McDermott’s THAT NIGHT and E. Lockhart’s WE WERE LIARS. Wholly mesmerizing and deeply affecting, this book is ready for your next trip to the beach . . . if you can stomach it.

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Heatwave
Victor Jestin

A mesmerizing, “fiery page-turner” (Entertainment Weekly) about a teenage boy on summer vacation who makes an irrevocable mistake and becomes trapped in a spiral of guilt and desire—in the tradition of Alice McDermotts That Night and E. Lockharts We Were Liars.

Oscar is dead because I watched him die and did nothing.

Seventeen-year-old Leo is sitting in an empty playground at night, listening to the sound of partying and pop music filtering in from the beach, when he sees another, more popular boy strangle himself with the ropes of the swings. Then, in a panic, Leo drags him to the beach and buries him.

Over the next twenty-four hours, Leo wanders around the campsite like a sleepwalker, haunted by guilt and fear, and distracted by his desire for a girl named Luce. Meanwhile, the teenage summer rituals continue all around him—the fighting and flirting, the smell of salt and sunscreen, the tinny announcements from the loudspeaker, and above all, the crushing, relentless heat...

A prizewinning sensation in France and now stunningly translated by Sam Taylor, Heatwave is Victor Jestin’s “charged and chilling” (Publishers Weekly) debut novel—a searing portrait of adolescent desire and recklessness, and secrets too big to keep.

*Originally published in France under the title La Chaleur.

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The End of Getting Lost
by Robin Kirman

How about another honeymoon that goes off the rails? In Robin Kirman’s THE END OF GETTING LOST, Gina and Duncan are a young couple innocently galivanting across Europe on their delayed honeymoon following Gina’s mysterious accident, which has left her mind hazy and her memories untrustworthy. While she doesn’t recall what led her to a hospital bed, she does sense a growing bond between her and her new husband as they travel to romantic locations on the European continent. But she can’t help but shake the feeling that Duncan is hiding something and when she discovers unsent letters she penned to her family describing a crumbling relationship, she scrambles to seek out the truth that Duncan seems to be keeping secret. Suspenseful and full of deceit, Kirman’s work—soon to be a major motion picture—balances the beauty of young love with the lies that a marriage can often build a foundation upon. You won’t want to miss it.

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The End of Getting Lost
Robin Kirman

A psychologically suspenseful, cunning love story following a young dancer unable to recall the last year of her life after suffering a head injury on her honeymoon, revealing an intimate portrait of love’s powers—as well as its dangers.

The year is 1996—a time before cell phones, status updates, and location tags—when you could still travel to a remote corner of the world and disappear, if you chose to do so. This is where we meet Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy, a young artistic couple madly in love, traveling around Europe on a romantic adventure. It’s a time both thrilling and dizzying for Gina, whose memories are hazy following a head injury—and the growing sense that the man at her side, her one companion on this strange continent, is keeping secrets from her.

Just what is Duncan hiding and how far will he go to keep their pasts at bay? As the pair hop borders across Europe, their former lives threatening to catch up with them while the truth grows more elusive, we witness how love can lead us astray, and what it means to lose oneself in love... The End of Getting Lost is “atmospheric, lyrical, and filled with layered insights into the complexities of marriage” (Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy). “Kirman is wonderfully deft with suspense and plot” (Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks) in this “electric page-turner” (Courtney Maum, author of Costalegre and Touch), a novel that is both a tightrope act of deception as much as it is an elegant exploration of love and marriage, and our cherished illusions of both. With notes of Patricia Highsmith, Caroline Kepnes, and Lauren Groff, Robin Kirman has spun a delicious tale of deceit, redemption, and the fight to keep love alive—no matter the costs.

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Photo credit: iStock / LeeYiuTung

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