If you’re like me, this last season of White Lotus left you thirsting for more vacation crime thrillers. Now that the weather’s opening up, and spring is blooming, we’re just a little way off from the high-traffic summer travel season. Until we can actually get away, here are fifteen vacation thrillers to escape into this spring. Let’s start off where they left off, in Italy, the best vacation spot for a mystery.
This fast-paced thriller is both a great read for a vacation and set during a vacation. Six college best friends of the most successful social media platform’s founder agree to go with him on an all-expenses-paid retreat to a luxurious tropical locale—and there’s only one catch: this weekend will be device-free. When the friends awake in his villa to find him gone, and a tablet in his place, they’re off to the races on a wild treasure hunt turned investigation.
Florence Darrow has always felt she was destined for greatness, but after a disastrous affair with her married boss, she starts to doubt herself. All that changes when she sets off for Morocco with her new boss, the celebrated but reclusive author Maud Dixon. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence begins to feel she’s leading the sort of interesting, cosmopolitan life she deserves.
But when she wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night—and no sign of Maud—a dangerous idea begins to take form. . .
Grace Evans, an overworked New Yorker looking for a total escape from her busy life, books an Airbnb on a ranch in the middle of Wyoming. When she arrives at the idyllic getaway, she’s pleased to find that the owner is a handsome man by the name of Calvin Wells—and he’s eager to introduce her to his easygoing way of life. But there are things Grace discovers that she’s not too pleased about: A lack of cell phone service. A missing woman. And a feeling that something isn’t right with the ranch.
Despite her uneasiness, the two bond and start to fall for one another. However, as her departure date nears, things change for the worse. What began as a playful romance soon turns into a complicated web of lies. Grace grows wary of Calvin as his infatuation for her seems to have morphed to obsession. Calvin fears that Grace is hiding something from him—including her reason for staying at his ranch to begin with. Vacation flings typically end in heartbreak, but for Grace and Calvin, it’ll be far more destructive.
Emily and Chess are both writers, but different kinds. Emily is a crime novelist struggling both in her personal life and to get her next draft going, and Chess is a social media self-help sensation. Though they’ve been friends for decades, their relationship has always been somewhat fraught. But on the grounds of both getting some writing done and reconnecting, Emily agrees to go with Chess to an Italian villa… one with a complicated history involving either a tragic drug-induced accident or something far more sinister. When the past starts to weave itself into the present, all the women involved have some important decisions to make, and some important truths to decide upon.
In another novel set in a remote cabin, Eric, Andrew, and their daughter Wen vacation to a lake in New Hampshire, and shortly after they arrive, Leonard arrives. Leonard is huge, but he’s young and friendly, and he tells Wen that even though her dads won’t want to let him and his group into their house, they have to. The fate of the world is in their hands. What happens after that is a wild series of high-stakes ultimatums that could prevent (or cause) the apocalypse.
A decade ago, two vans filled with high school seniors on a school service trip crashed into a Tennessee ravine—a tragedy that claimed the lives of multiple classmates and teachers. The nine students who managed to escape the river that night were irrevocably changed. A year later, after one of the survivors dies by suicide on the anniversary of the crash, the rest of them make a pact: to come together each year to commemorate that terrible night.
To keep one another safe.
To hold one another accountable.
Their annual meeting place, a house on the Outer Banks, has long been a refuge. But by the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Bent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy, and from the other survivors. She’s changed her mobile number. She’s blocked the others’ email addresses. This year, she is determined to finally break ties once and for all. But on the day of the reunion, she receives a text with an obituary attached: another survivor is gone. Now they are seven—and Cassidy finds herself hurling back toward the group, wild with grief—and suspicion.
Almost immediately, something feels off this year. Cassidy is the first to notice when Amaya, annual organizer, slips away, overwhelmed. This wouldn’t raise alarm except for the impending storm. Suddenly, they’re facing the threat of closed roads and surging waters...again. Then Amaya stops responding to her phone. After all they’ve been through, she wouldn’t willfully make them worry. Would she?
And—as they promised long ago—each survivor will do whatever he or she can do to save one another. Won’t they?
Emily is having the time of her life—she's in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she'd been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year's trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can't believe it's happened again--can lightning really strike twice?
Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend's motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom--even her life?
Summer and Leo would do anything for each other. Inspired by the way each has had to carve her place in a hostile and unforgiving world, and united by the call of the open road, they travel around sunny California in Summer's tricked-out Land Cruiser. It's not a glamorous life, but it gives them the freedom they crave from the painful pasts they've left behind. But even free spirits have bills to pay. Luckily, Summer is a skilled pickpocket, a small-time thief, and a con artist--and Leo, determined to pay her own way, has learned a trick or two.
Eager for a big score, Leo catches in her crosshairs Michael Forrester, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist. When her charm wins him over, Leo is rewarded with an invitation to his private island off the California coastline for a night of fabulous excess. She eagerly anticipates returning with photos that can be sold to the paparazzi, jewelry that can be liquidated, and endless stories to share with Summer. Instead, Leo disappears. On her own for the first time in years, Summer decides to infiltrate Michael's island and find out what really happened. But when she arrives, no one has seen Leo—she's not on the island as far as they know. Plus, there was only one way on the island—and no way off—for the coming days. Trapped in a scheme she helped initiate, could Summer have met her match?
Nothing gets me more excited to travel than a vacation period piece. Set in 1955 on the Amalfi Coast, the young striver Tom Ripley arrives in Italy on the assignment to retrieve the playboy son of a rich man. Bedazzled by Dickie Greenleaf’s extravagant galivanting, Tom becomes more obsessed with him and his lifestyle, and he reveals himself to be an amoral, low-level confidence man who is also, strangely, very likeable.
Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico with six other strangers. Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is soon shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses—and all seven strangers harbor a secret.
Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents stir suspicions, as one by one . . .
It was supposed to be the perfect getaway: Kate and her three best friends, spending a week with their families in a luxurious villa in the south of France. Through the decades they’ve stayed closer than ever, and seven days of drinking crisp French wine and laying out under the dazzling Mediterranean sun is the perfect celebration of their friendship. But soon after arriving, Kate discovers an incriminating text on her husband’s cell phone.
A text revealing that he’s having an affair.
And that the other woman is one of her best friends.
But which one?
Trapped in paradise with no one to trust, Kate is determined to find out who has put her marriage—and a lifelong friendship—in jeopardy. But as she closes in on the truth, she realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Everyone on the trip has secrets…and someone may be prepared to kill to keep theirs hidden.
What to Read Next
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.