Reading by the pool has to be one of the most blissfully relaxing experiences of all time. Whether it’s the rippling water, the casually reclined deckchair, the (what we’d hope is) blazing sunshine or the opportunity to lose oneself in a stellar new read, it’s an experience that could fairly be described as ‘the stuff of life’.
It’s the scene of ultimate relaxation; of winding down, shutting off and allowing the imagination to take flight — and never more so than when the book in question is a crime thriller. Because crime thrillers are — put simply — the perfect poolside reads. They’re fun; they’re gripping; and they’re adventurous enough to add a bit of zest to your holiday. So we’ve curated a list of the very best crime thrillers you could hope to find this summer; all of which will make for poolside companions of the highest degree.
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
You may be familiar with a rather famous book, titled The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? Well, this is the latest novel from the same author of that instant bestseller; and we, for one, can’t wait to get stuck in.
Set aboard a sea voyage to Amsterdam in 1634, Samuel Pipps is the greatest detective in the world. The only thing is, he’s facing trial for a crime so horrendous that no one can bring themselves to speak of it. But it’s not a simple voyage, by any means — it’s blighted by something beyond the natural. Mysterious figures appear on the sails; the decks are stalked by an unknown figure; and the passengers are given three very specific threats. An impossible pursuit; an impossible theft; and an impossible murder.
The Devil and the Dark Water
Lockdown by Peter May
Are you assuming this book was written within the last year? Well, that’s why assumptions are tricky things, gents; because this book was actually — somewhat spookily — written 15 years ago. The setting of this one is a London in — you’ve guessed it — lockdown, due to a deadly pandemic of a flu-like disease, which 70-80% of the population are likely to catch, and from which 25% are likely to die. We said it was spooky.
Given its precience, the setting would be spooky enough on its own. But simplicity has never been Peter May’s style; as if the pandemic wasn’t enough, a psychopath is on a mission in the city: to prevent all bones from being identified at all possible costs. Trust us when we say that you’ll be flying through the pages so quickly, you’ll be at risk of accidentally flinging the book into the pool. Better angle your deckchair away from the water.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
It would be horrifically remiss of us not to include at least one book featuring one of the most famous characters ever to have graced the pages of crime fiction: Sherlock Holmes himself. Granted, Sherlock Holmes is more often read in front of a roaring fire than by a pool — but if you’re looking to be hooked to the pages from start to finish, you couldn’t do better than Conan Doyle.
We’re sure you’re familiar with the premise of this one; at least from Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern day portrayal of the famous detective. But we’ll fill you in, just in case; the Devon moorland is the scene for the discovery of a body: that of Sir Charles Baskerville. Giant footprints are found nearby, and the death is blamed on a family curse involving a phantom hound. This really is the perfect read with which to set up camp at the pool; even better if you’re by a pool that’s actually in Devon.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Venetian Legacy by Philip Gwynne Jones
Twists and turns abound in this fast-paced thriller, set in the palatial waterways of the Floating City. And there’s a romantic start, too; Nathan and Federica are off on their honeymoon to the island of Pellestrina. Luxury is set to be in store, with exquisite views and sublime seafood.
But it wouldn’t be a thriller if the story hinged on the perfect paella; it’s not long before a body is dredged out of the water; that of an eminent Venetian lawyer. And it’s not long after that before unwelcome attention starts to be directed at the honeymoon couple. A jewellery heist and the Venetian Mafia also make their way into the story; not our idea of a honeymoon, but certainly our idea of the perfect poolside read.
The Venetian Legacy
The Dinner Guest by B P Walter
The setting is a quiet dinner at a wealthy, West London home; and the cover alone is enough to send tingles down the suncream-covered spine. It’s a domestic noir thriller — by which we mean it centres on domesticity. But don’t let that put you off. The inner sanctums of our homes bear witness to all manner of sins — and this book is no exception.
Four people are at this dinner party: parents Charlie and Matthew, son Titus, and stranger Rachel, who was invited despite Charlie’s protests. But it’s a dinner party that ends in Matthew’s violent death — and results in a web of secrets, lies and fear for the other three.
The Dinner Guest
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
John le Carré is one of the indubitable masters of crime thrillers, as evidenced by the phenomenal success of The Night Manager and its subsequent adaptation, starring the ever-reliable Tom Hiddleston. And if you loved The Night Manager, you’re guaranteed to be glued to your deckchair with this one; often touted as le Carré’s breakthrough work of 1963.
It’s a crime thriller, yes; but it’s also a political page-turner. It centres on Alec Leamas, who is exhausted down to the bone after years spent serving his British masters by spying in Berlin. His last mission is to make his way into the heart of Communist Germany, and prepare to betray his country. Leamas is a professional; but subsequent events mean the mission ceases to be a case of simply doing his job.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
We couldn’t sing the praises of the crime genre without including the Queen of Crime herself; and when it comes to poolside reads, you couldn’t do better than what many would say is one of Christie’s most famous novels of all time — not least because of its Egyptian river setting. Plus, there’s the much-anticipated film adaptation coming out later this year…
Fans of Hercule Poirot will be pleased to learn that he rules the roost in this unrivalled work of crime fiction; when the rich, beautiful (and somewhat unpopular, to say the least) heiress Linnet Ridgeway is found shot in her cabin, Poirot pulls out all the stops and leads the way to one of the most jaw-dropping conclusions of all time. If you guess who did it, we’ll eat our sunhats.
Death on the Nile
Win by Harlan Coben
We’re guessing you’ve already read The Stranger; or at least that you saw the hit Netflix adaptation last year? Well, Win is the much-anticipated new novel from the same author; and it’s likely to be an even bigger success than its predecessor.
The action takes place on New York’s Upper West Side, where the wealthy Windsor Horne Lockwood III (also known as Win) learns that his leather suitcase, and a stolen Vermeer painting belonging to his family, have been found in the penthouse apartment of a murdered man. The FBI are dumbstruck, but Win is on the (suit)case…
The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin
If you’re a fan of historical crime fiction, then this is the book for you. The year is 1919 and the setting is New Orleans, where a serial killer known as the ‘Axeman’ is stalking the city. Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot and former detective Luca d’Andrea (now working for the mafia) are on the case; as is Ida, a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
Ida has long nursed a obsession for Sherlock Holmes, and she also happens to be friends with none other than Louis Armstrong. When she inadvertently stumbles across a clue, the two become embroiled in danger; just as the Axeman himself posits a particularly gruesome challenge to the people of New Orleans.
The Axeman's Jazz
Falling by T.J. Newman
If you’re reading this abroad (lucky you) with a return flight in a few days’ time, this book is likely to pack a particularly acute punch. Because this one’s set on board a plane; more particularly, a plane that’s been described by author Don Winslow as “Jaws at 35,000 feet”.
The plane in question is en route to New York, and is carrying 144 passengers. But just before the plane took off, the pilot’s family was kidnapped; and the only way they can be freed is if the pilot deliberately crashes the plane, killing everyone on board. We’re getting chills just thinking about it.
Bookshelf still looking a bit on the empty side? These are the books to read in celebration of Pride Month 2021…
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