Reading about dysfunctional families is one of my absolute favourite pastimes, especially when the setting is just as creepy and unsettling as the story itself. For my latest book, The Soulmate, the cliffside setting overlooking the ocean was inspired by a well-known suicide spot in Sydney, Australia. I like to think that, in the book, the cliff becomes almost a character in itself – and that’s how I feel about some of these deliciously twisty crime reads.
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
Everyone’s heard of Big Little Lies thanks to the fantastic TV series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. While the series was set oceanside in California, the book is set in Sydney’s Northern Beaches (almost like the Californian equivalent), and the affluent suburban area is central to the storyline. The story follows three women whose children go to the local primary school, and their narratives twist around each other, dealing with domestic violence and assault, jealousy, marriage breakdowns, and other such dysfunctional things I love.
The Bay, Allie Reynolds
A recent and exhilarating new thriller, The Bay has a super dark setting called ‘Sorrow Bay’ – a remote surfing spot cut off from the rest of the world. Our main girl, Kenna, meets a group of mysterious people there who are hiding out and trying to disappear. But why? It’s suspenseful and exciting, and reminds me of the movie The Beach with Leonardo!
The Safe Place, Anna Downes
Inspired by the author’s time working as a nanny for a family who had a really remote holiday house in Europe, The Safe Place is the crème de la crème of thrillers with a creepy setting. A struggling actress accepts a live-in job for a wealthy family at their property on the coast of France. She soon learns that the luxury is hiding some dark secrets, and she’s totally cut-off from everyone and everything who could save her.
Force of Nature, Jane Harper
How could I go past anything Jane Harper has written?! All her books have incredible, creepy and visceral settings, including her first, The Dry, which is set in a remote Australian outback town during fire season. Jane’s second book, Force of Nature, follows a group of colleagues who are on a corporate retreat hike through rugged forest. Five women go into the bush, but only four come out.
One Last Secret, Adele Parks
I adored One Last Secret, not just for its luxurious French chateau setting! A high-end escort decides to take one last job, and she can probably pull it off… it’s not like she hasn’t before. She has one week to convince the other guests that she’s her client’s girlfriend, but soon it becomes apparent that she can’t put her past behind her, and the stakes are terrifyingly high.
The Writing Retreat, Julia Bartz
This psychological thriller hits really close to home…for obvious reasons! Alex has almost given up her dream of being a published author when she lands on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend an exclusive writing retreat with a famous author of feminist horror. A seven-figure publishing deal is on the table for the writer who pens the best novel in a month – and Alex wants to win. She just needs to deal with the haunted mansion, the mind games of the others, and the erratic behaviour of the famous author who brought them all here!
My own novel, The Soulmate, is set on rugged cliffs well-known for a slate of suicides. Pippa’s husband, Gabe, makes it his mission to save as many as he can. One day, he doesn’t save a woman, and Pippa sees him out the window with his arms open in a suspicious position. How far will she go to protect her husband? Does she really know him at all? What wouldn’t you do for your soulmate?