Top Ten Coastal Mysteries
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This is probably one of the first thrillers I ever read and I was swept up in this haunting tale of jealousy and love. I was as mesmerized by the late Rebecca as the second Mrs. de Winter. The Cornish coast, where the novel is thought to have been set, is so vividly portrayed it’s like its own character.
In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings
This was my favorite read of 2016 and has now become one of my favorite novels of all time. It is such a beautiful, heart-breaking book. Also set on the rugged Cornish coastline, it’s an examination of grief, loss, and what it’s like to realize you’ve been told a lie your entire life.
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
This psychological thriller is so disturbing it leaves you with that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach: a storyline ripped from the headlines. The setting is a fictional coastal town with a funfair called Funnland, but I imagine it in the north of England somewhere, like a smaller, less attractive Blackpool. The author really captures that rundown, seedy coastal town so well.
Broadchurch by Erin Kelly
I’m a huge fan of Erin Kelly—The Poison Tree is another one of my all-time favorite reads— so I was delighted when I heard that she was going to write a book version of the popular TV drama. It’s the perfect whodunit set in the fictional seaside town of Broadchurch in the West Country. When a boy is found dead in the close-knit town, secrets are unearthed, friendships are shattered, and a murderer is lurking, casting suspicion on everyone.
The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
Set in Brighton, this is a tense and gripping psychological thriller about two women who are accused of killing their teacher fifteen years before when they were teenagers. They were dubbed by the newspapers as “The Ice Cream Girls” because of a photo of them in bikinis eating an ice cream. I loved this book, with its powerful message about psychological abuse.
The Beach by Alex Garland
I read this in my early twenties and ripped through the pages of this thriller set in Thailand. It’s a terrific, fast-paced read about a group of young people in search of a remote, idyllic beach untouched by tourism.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
This is my favorite of all the Ripley novels. Set against an exotic backdrop, this time the Italian coast, this is the story of Tom Ripley at the beginning of his killing spree. What makes this a clever novel in my mind is that, while disliking Tom for what he’s done, you’re also rooting for him to succeed. He’s the epitome of an antihero.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
This psychological thriller has the most brilliant midway twist that I never saw coming. Jenna is traumatized and grieving when she runs away from her home in Bristol and heads to the rugged, isolated coast of Wales. You can almost hear the wind whistling in this chilling tale. The moodiness of the landscape reflects perfectly the demons that Jenna is battling within herself.
Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant
This perfectly plotted thriller is set on a fictional sun-drenched Greek island. I loved this tense, oppressive book. Sabine Durrant describes the island with its sounds and smells and heat so well it feels like you’re actually there.
The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
I love Agatha Christie, particularly her Miss Marple novels, and The Body in the Library is one of my favorites, probably because the majority of the book takes place at the seaside. When a body is found in Colonel Bantry’s library, Miss Marple and Mrs. Bantry head to the coast to find out more about the victim, who was a dancer in the upmarket hotel there. Set in the fictional Danemouth but supposedly based on Bournemouth, the novel is evocative of English seaside towns in the 1940/’50s.