5 Best Beach Reads for Fans of Literary Suspense

"My novel Bittersweet is my attempt to write the kind of books I love to read when I’m on vacation," says Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

My favorite beach reads mix high and low, they contain beautiful language and juicy plots, and they almost always contain some kind of central mystery, even if it’s not a traditional “whodunit”; I love a “what happened?” (the darker the better, as far as I’m concerned!).

Here are five of my favorite books to read in a deck chair – for fans of literary suspense:
Atonement by Ian McEwan1. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. This book starts out slow and steady, and then, as you read on, it shocks you over and over again, not to mention that it breaks your heart.

The final revelation in the postscript is a true “I see dead people” moment—it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and called into question all that I had read before.
case histories by kate atkinson2. Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. The first in a four-book series starring private investigator (and reluctantly lovable) Jackson Brodie, this is a fabulous deconstruction of a classic detective novel. I warn you, though: you won’t want to stop at just the first book.

I’m especially in love with the description at the beginning of the third novel in the series, When Will There Be Good News?, although what happens in that scene is dark beyond imagining.
in the woods tana french3. Tana French’s In the Woods. This is the first book in a riveting series called the Dublin Murder Squad. (I’m so excited that the fifth book, The Secret Place, is due out in September!).

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French is a master of place and character, and her switching of points of view from book to book forces you to reevaluate your own assumptions about the people you think you know.
dark places gillian flynn4. Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. I’m just going to say a bit of sacrilege: this is my favorite of Flynn’s novels. (I’m excited to see the upcoming movie, starring Charlize Theron).

Protagonist Libby Day is damaged and fascinating, having survived a brutal slaughter as a girl, and her quest to find out what happened that night kept my eyes glued to the page and my heart pounding.
secret history donna tartt5. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. You find out right away who murdered Edmund “Bunny” Corcoran; it was our narrator, and his (and Bunny’s) cohort of Classics students at an isolated Vermont college.

But knowing who committed the murder won’t keep you from wanting to know why, not to mention everything about this group of outsiders who find kindred spirits in one another’s oddness, for better, but mostly (at least in Bunny’s case) for worse.

MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE is the author of three novels, including The Effects of Light and Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best book of fiction by an American woman published in 2007. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, she lives and writes in Brooklyn and Vermont. Visit the author online at MirandaBW.com.

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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