Imagine: It’s a gorgeous day, and you’re lounging by the pool or spread out on a beach towel. Reapplying sunscreen has totally slipped your mind—and you haven’t even thought about finding a shady spot—because you simply can't put your book down.
That’s exactly what happened to us (and will happen to you) when you pick up one the following gripping beach reads. From stories of nightmarish vacations to nannies from hell, their twists and turns will add so many chills to your day, you’ll forget all about the heat.
Sandy, David, and Peter were enjoying their summer love triangle until Rhoda showed up. Awkward and plain, Rhoda is an easy target, and Sandy uses her vulnerability to test the boys' loyalty. But what starts out as a game of typical teenage bullying quickly escalates to cruel, destructive heights. Published in 1968 and adapted into an Oscar nominated film, Evan Hunter's novel is a classic summer read that’ll appeal to fans of books like The Secret History.
Holiday with Violence
While traveling towards their epic Italian getaway, four English friends meet fellow train passenger Signora Galassi. But by the time they reach their destination, the elderly man is dead—lying murdered on his seat. Now, the friends must swap their vacation plans for a homicide investigation that will put their lives—and friendships—in peril.
Bon Bini Beach
From one of the Netherlands' most popular mystery writers comes Bon Bini Beach—the story of a girl’s trip gone horribly wrong. When the wealthy Dominique invites her friend Lilian to accompany her to Aruba, Lilian jumps at the chance. But it’s obvious from the first knock at their door that this vacation isn’t going to be smooth sailing. Things take an even more disturbing turn when Dominique vanishes, sending Lilian into the darkest corners of the Caribbean to find her missing friend.
Killed in Paradise
As the vice president of a TV network, Matt Cobb has the exhausting responsibility of ensuring his writers, actors, and executives all get along. Even his mystery cruise vacation must be spent wrangling two radio contest winners—though that’s the least of Matt's worries. Now that dead bodies keep turning up, he must save face and find the high-seas murderer before they strike again. But with DeAndrea’s eccentric cast of characters, the killer could be just about anyone…
You Should Have Left
This translated German novel may look slim—but don’t let its size fool you. You Should Have Left packs the sort of punches you’d expect from a much bigger tome (except this book is only 128 pages). The screenwriter protagonist rents a summer house in the mountains with his wife and daughter, though they’re immediately welcomed with an ominous warning: “You should have left.” According to the locals, there’s something not right about their temporary home—and soon, strange happenings prove their theories. The book’s imagery is so chilling, it’ll leave a mark on the most cynical of readers.
See What I Have Done
Historical fiction and true crime fanatics should be all over Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, which offers a unique take on the Lizzie Borden case. Borden was accused of killing her parents with an axe in 1892. Though she was eventually acquitted, time seems to have convicted her in retrospect (think of it as the 19th-century O.J. Simpson trial). Schmidt also blends in the narratives of Lizzie’s sister, maid, and a stranger to present a multifaceted retelling of America’s one of most infamous crimes.
The Perfect Nanny
In 2012, a New York nanny brutally stabbed the two children under her care. The horrifying crime was the stuff of every parent’s nightmare—and the inspiration behind Leila Slimani’s international sensation. Translated from its original French, the bestseller chronicles a similar scenario: When Myriam and her husband find Louise, they think they’ve found “the perfect nanny.” But as the family and Louise’s lives become more entangled, tension—and violence—erupt with devastating consequences.
Two couples meet at an ultra-popular restaurant for a seemingly benign date night. But as this novel unfolds, Herman Koch reveals the true reason behind their meeting—and let’s just say it doesn’t make for pleasant dinner conversation. Deeply disturbing and horrifyingly modern, this “European Gone Girl” is the very definition of a thrilling beach read (The Wall Street Journal).
The Talented Mr. Ripley
If you want an intelligent, subtly sinister thriller, you go to Patricia Highsmith. The Talented Mr. Ripley is her masterpiece, and it stars a dashing, sexually ambiguous conman in 1950s Manhattan. He befriends a wealthy businessman, who then tasks him with retrieving his womanizing, party-boy son, Dickie. So begins an adventure full of money, lust, deception, and murder that Highsmith continues in five other Ripley novels. If that’s not enough, you can also watch the excellent 1999 film adaptation, which stars Matt Damon and Jude Law.
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