What the blurb says: “Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find. Then a second girl goes missing. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody could imagine?”
Holiday friendships: sometimes they last, sometimes they don’t. But they’re usually fun while they last, and don’t usually involve murder, unlike the holiday friendships made in Mark Billingham’s standalone thriller RUSH OF BLOOD.
What starts out as the story of three couples from England who meet at a Florida beach resort takes a sinister twist when the daughter of a fellow holiday maker goes missing. Back in the UK, the couples stay in contact and over the course of three dinner parties, and a few girly and blokey evenings out, discover far more about each other than they might ever have wished for.
Billingham creates a huge sense of dread for what has, and might, happen. While initially each couple seems happy in their everyday lives and relationships, as the story unfolds the reader starts to realise that no one is exactly as they seem, and some have darker secrets than others. In fact many of the characters have rather unattractive traits: they’re mean or angry or jealous or attention-seeking or rude. But, you find yourself thinking, does that make them more or less likely to be the murderer?
This is a book that keeps you guessing. As a reader you know a bad thing has happened. You’re fairly sure one of the six holiday makers is responsible. But which one, and how they did it, provides an intriguing puzzle. Helping solve that puzzle along with you is Trainee Detective Constable Jenny Quinlan– an over-eager workaholic who is determined to crack the case (and meet the Florida homicide detective – Jeffrey Gardner – whose voice she so adores).
A cross between a police procedural and a psychological thriller, this high-tension, fast paced, character driven story is masterfully plotted and flawlessly told.
It’ll also make you think twice about striking up a conversation with the people sitting round the pool or beside you on the beach next time you’re on holiday!
[I bought my copy of RUSH OF BLOOD at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival]