10 of the best… Holiday Noir reads.

What Lies Within author Annabelle Thorpe gives us the rundown of 10 killer holiday noir reads. Would you like cyanide with that pina colada?

Posted on April 16, 2018 in Best of, Uncategorized

Annabelle Thorpe, author of chilling holiday noir What Lies Within, tells us about her top 10 novels that help you a take a little darkness away with you into the sunshine.

Holidays have always had a strong role to play in fiction – the chance to place characters somewhere new and unknown is a classic way for an author to open up a storyline and bring in new situations. The beauty of holiday noir is that it offers the reader the trappings of a thriller with the chance to get under the skin of a destination in a way rarely offered by lighter reads.

Whether your taste is for murder mysteries, thrillers or explorations of relationships, there is a holiday noir novel to suit. Here are ten of the best.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Christie was one of the earliest exponents of holiday noir; several of her most popular whodunits are set in glamorous overseas locations.  The awe-inspiring ancient sights of Luxor and Aswan form the backdrop to this Poirot mystery, with all of the suspects held together on a Nile cruise.

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s painful, intimate study of a failing marriage and the dark secret that lies at the heart of the relationship is made all the more powerful by the glittering backdrop of the French Riviera.  The story of Dick and Nicole Diver, who take a villa in the south of France, draws strongly on Fitzgerald’s own time living in Europe.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

A classic study of existential despair, Bowles’ novel focuses on a married American couple, Port and Kit, who come to North Africa hoping that an adventure – they plan to travel through Algeria – will help heal their marriage.  Instead Port becomes ill with typhus and Kit embarks on disastrous liaisons with local men; an immersive, unsettling read.


The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith uses the gorgeous Italian islands of Ischia and Procida as a backdrop to Tom Ripley’s increasing obsession with the wealthy and handsome Dickie Greenleaf.  Commissioned by Dickie’s wealthy father to bring his son back to the USA, instead Tom becomes dangerously infatuated, ending in a chilling tragedy.


The Beach by Alex Garland

An iconic novel focusing on the world of backpacker travel and the dark side of Thailand’s beach-party culture.  Garland’s narrator, Richard, arrives in Thailand searching for a semi-mythical lost island, home to a self-sufficient community of travellers.  When he finds it, rather than the Eden it first appears to be, it soon becomes clear that there is a sinister darkness at play beneath the surface.


What Lies Within by Annabelle Thorpe

Paul, Hamad and Freya have been friends since university, but ten years after graduating their lives have diverged – Paul and Freya’s marriage is in the doldrums, while Hamad has become a wealthy hotelier.  A spectacular job offer from Hamad sees the couple move to Marrakech, but instead of providing a fresh start, the city proves threatening in ways neither of them could have imagined.


Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam

Set in 1954, this is a beautifully-set, claustrophobic novel about Beatriz Hanlon, who moves with her missionary husband to a remote South Pacific island. In spite of the island’s heat, insects and unfriendly locals, Beatriz slowly begins to adjust.  But then an unexpected guest arrives, provoking a chain of events that will prove horribly destructive for both Beatriz and her husband.


Tangier by Christine Mangan

Also set in the 1950’s, Mangan’s story focuses on two former friends, Alice and Lucy, who haven’t spoken since a horrific accident years before.   When Lucy turns up on the doorstep of Alice and her husband John, who have just moved to Tangier, it sets of a chilling chain of events that leaves Alice questioning everything she believed to be true.


Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton (Wildfire)

This could perhaps be re-titled ‘Girl on a Plane’, as much of the story takes place in the air as Juliette – obsessed by her ex-boyfriend Nate – becomes a flight attendant so that she can follow him on his travels.  An intense novel with a delusional and twisted narrator, this is holiday noir with a difference.


Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

Not published until September, this Parisian-set story of Hannah, a 31-year-old American post-doctoral researcher, and Tariq, a 19-year-old Moroccan, fits neatly into the holiday noir genre.  Hannah’s research into the lives of women during the German occupation in WWII brings up stories from a darker time, creating the sense of a haunted city and challenges for both her and Tariq.

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