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Posted by on 20 Jun, 2024 in British Crime, British Thrillers, Canberra Weekly, Crime, Domestic Suspense, Thriller | 0 comments



Holidays can be murder! That is certainly the impression you get from the recent flood of ‘destination thrillers’ where trips to idyllic locations can have deadly results. In this recent batch of crime reading there are two novels which fall into this category, as well as a reminder that going back to your old hometown can also be dangerous. Finally, Mark Billingham shows that the seaside city of Blackpool can be just as treacherous as London or Edinburgh.

The Ski Trip by Sarah Clarke (HQ, 5 June 2024)

Destination thrillers are one of the hottest trends in crime fiction at the moment. The basic premise involves people travelling to a holiday location, usually some exotic and remote place, where they are killed off one by one until the identity of the killer is finally revealed. The quality is variable, but they usually provide a good weekend read.

Sarah Clarke’s The Ski Trip (HQ Paperback, 5 June 2024) is a good example of the genre and provides some neat variations on the formula. Ivy, an university meteorology lecturer on maternity leave, is shocked when her slightly estranged friend Zoe turns up on her doorstep one night. Zoe wants Ivy to accompany her to the French ski resort of Moraine where Zoe’s husband, Tom, has just died in a freak accident while on a skiing holiday with some of their old friends from university. Ivy is reluctant, but goes along to bring Tom home. Once they arrive at the chalet, old and new rifts begin to surface within the group still gathered there, and Ivy begins to wonder if Tom could have been murdered.

Secrets abound in this well plotted story and Sarah is quite good at bringing all the elements together and keeping the reader guessing as to what is happening. The pace is steady and there several good twists. The shifting timelines and detailed backstories become a little tiresome at times, but overall this is an enjoyable tale with a surprising ending. Fans of psychological thrillers set in an interesting location will like this one.

The Ski Trip was released in the United Kingdom last year, but is just being released in Australia in June 2024. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.

Our Holiday by Louise Candlish (HQ, 19 June 2024)

Louise Candlish is a very accomplished practitioner of the complex psychological suspense thriller, and her latest one, Our Holiday (HQ, 19 June 2024), is a satisfying mix of twists and family drama.

Charlotte and Perry long for summers at Cliff View, their gorgeous holiday home overlooking the turquoise waters of Pine Ridge and across the Channel to France. And now that city friends Amy and Linus have bought a property nearby, they plan lazy weeks of sun, sea and sipping rosé on Charlotte’s summerhouse veranda. But there’s trouble in paradise. A rising tide of resentment towards second-home owners is heading their way and small acts of criminal damage are escalating into something more menacing. By the end of the summer, families and friendships will be torn apart and Pine Ridge will be known for more than its sun-drenched beaches. It will be known for murder.

Louise Candlish excels at this sort of domestic thriller and crime novel mix, and her books are notable for their sharp eyed view of modern society and what pressure can do to a relationship. The characters are well etched and interesting, if not always pleasant, and the book smoothly winds its way to an unexpected conclusion. Also adding pleasure, is the interesting backdrop to the story and Louise’s skillful fleshing out of the tensions in the local community.

Fans of Louise’s earlier novels will be well pleased with this one.

Our Holiday is released in Australia on 19 June 2024 and in the United Kingdom and the United States on 4 July 2024. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.

Middle Of The Night by Riley Sager (Dutton, 18 June)

As regular readers of crime fiction know, returning to your hometown, especially when there is an unsolved mystery involved, is just as dangerous as a holiday.

Riley Sager is very good at the dual storyline, character driven narrative thriller and his latest book, Middle Of The Night (Dutton, 18 June 2024), is a twisty feast of a story.

The book moves back and forth between two timelines involving a strange disappearance. One July night, ten-year-old Ethan and his best friend and neighbor, Billy, fell asleep in a tent set up on a manicured lawn in a quiet, quaint New Jersey cul de sac. In the morning, Ethan woke up alone. During the night, someone had sliced the tent open with a knife and taken Billy. He was never seen again.

Thirty years later, Ethan has reluctantly returned to his childhood home. Plagued by bad dreams and insomnia, he begins to notice strange things happening in the middle of the night. Someone seems to be roaming the cul de sac at odd hours, and signs of Billy’s presence keep appearing in Ethan’s backyard. Is someone playing a cruel prank? Or has Billy, long thought to be dead, somehow returned to Hemlock Circle?

The mysterious occurrences prompt Ethan to investigate what really happened that night, a quest that reunites him with former friends and neighbors and leads him into the woods that surround Hemlock Circle. Woods where Billy claimed monsters roamed and where a mysterious institute does clandestine research on a crumbling estate.

As is typical with Sager’s novels, Middle Of The Night, opens in an intriguing manner and keeps you interested as the story twists its way through some good surprises. The pacing is a little slow to start with, but it soon picks up as unexpected developments unfold. The dual timelines work really well and are not overly contrived in how they unfold.

The characters are nicely developed and it is interesting to see how they have changed between the two timelines. The suburban milieu is convincing, and is reminiscent of Harlan Coben’s earlier ‘suburban thrillers’. Some suspension of disbelief is required around how almost everyone is still in place after thirty years, but it is easy to get past this.

In all, Middle Of The Night is a very good read that is enhanced by Sager’s slight supernatural touches and the requisite surprise ending.

Middle Of The Night was released in the United States on 18 June 2024. It will be released in Australia by Hachette on 9 July 2024. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

The Wrong Hands by Mark Billingham (Sphere, 25 June 2024)

Mark Billingham took a leave of absence from his popular detective Tom Thorne to start a new series last year with Blackpool Detective Declan Miller, and he has now followed it up with a second book, The Wrong Hands (Sphere, 25 June 2024).

Set not long after the events in the first novel, The Last Dance, it opens in good fashion with an amusing theft gone wrong that sets the scene for the rest of the book. Very soon after the poorly targeted heist, Miller finds himself in possession of a briefcase containing a pair of hands, that supposedly serve as proof of a gangland execution. Not surprisingly, a number of people want to get their ‘hands’ on the briefcase and its contents, including the killer who needs the hands to claim payment, and the local crime boss who ordered the killing. Meanwhile, Miller sees the briefcase as a way to apply leverage to find out who killed his wife, a fellow detective who was murdered while working uncover just prior to the events of the first book.

It is a convoluted plot and certainly having read The Last Dance would help you to appreciate the intricacies of the story. It all moves along at a good pace, and although the mystery elements are muted there are still several good twists and turns. The entertaining cast of minor characters from the first book also feature again, including Miller’s death-metal loving partner, Sara Xiu, the ex-drag queen Coco Pops who is now a nasty major criminal and Miller’s pet rats, Ginger and Fred.

The ballroom dancing references are also present, as are Miller’s corny jokes and sometimes amusing references. Billingham has tuned down some of Miller’s eccentricities this time around, and I think the book is better for it.

Overall, The Wrong Hands is a very entertaining read. Some of it is over-the-top, but it works pretty well, and the book builds to a satisfying ending.

The Wrong Hands is released in Australia on 25 June 2024 and in the United Kingdom on 20 June 2024. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.

So four quite different books for your late June reading. I do not like ranking and rating books, but on a personal reading level I enjoyed Middle Of The Night the most, followed by The Wrong Hands. The Ski Trip and Our Holiday are both quite good, but probably more suited to audiences who enjoy a larger dose of family drama than me.

Happy reading!!

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