A beach hotel vacation can be restful and lots of fun, especially if you enjoy sunbathing, swimming or sailing. But just consider this. In Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun, what’s supposed to be an enjoyable holiday turns deadly for beautiful actress Arlena Stuart Marshall. She and her husband, Captain Kenneth Marshall, and her stepdaughter Linda are spending a holiday at the Jolly Roger Hotel, off the Devon coast. Late one morning, Arlena is found strangled on Pixie’s Cove, not far from the hotel. Hercule Poirot is also taking a holiday at that hotel, and he gets involved in the investigation because he may very well have been the last person to see the victim alive. The most likely suspect is Arlena’s husband Kenneth; it was common knowledge at the hotel that Arlena was having an affair with another guest. Besides, Captain Marshall stood to inherit by his wife’s death. Poirot finds that it’s not as simple as that, of course, as he looks into the case.
M.C. Beaton’s Love, Lies and Liquor, Geraldine Jankers also finds that beach vacations can be deadly. She and her brand-new husband are honeymooning at the Paradise Hotel in Snoth-on-Sea. With her are her son Wayne and his wife, and her friend Cyril Hammond and his wife. Late one nighit, Geraldine Jankers is strangled on the beach near the hotel. The first suspect is private detective Agatha Raisin, who’s there with her ex-husband James Lacey. On the night of the murder, Agatha and Geraldine Jankers had an argument in the dining room, and the murder weapon happens to be Agatha’s scarf. So at first, the police assume her guilt. She’s soon cleared, but decides to find out for herself who killed Geraldine Jankers.
And then there’s Birna Hálldorsdóttir, a successful architect whom we meet in Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's's My Soul to Take. She’s staying at a posh beachside resort while she works with the owner, Jónas Júlíusson, on a design for renovating the property. One day, she’s found brutally murdered on the beach, and Jónas is accused of the crime. He asks his attorney, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, to defend him and she begins to investigate. She finds that Birna’s death is related to a series of long-ago events in the area, and to the sixty-year-old disappearance of a young girl.
Bright Lights, Big City
Lots of tourists enjoy exploring cities like Moscow, Venice or Stockholm. But as any crime fiction fan could tell you, it’s not nearly as safe in those cities as the travel brochures would have one believe.
For instance, in Donna Leon’s Blood From a Stone, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his team investigate the execution-style murder of a Senegalese immigrant who was killed while he was peddling in one of Venice’s open-air markets. All of a sudden, the tourists who were in the area are swept up in the investigation instead of peacefully enjoying their trip to the city. As Brunetti and Ispettore Vianello discover, this man wasn’t murdered because he sold his wares to tourists. His death is connected to arms smuggling and a cache of hidden diamonds.
Moscow is equally dangerous, as we learn in Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park. In that novel, Arkady Renko is put in charge of the investigation into three brutal murders that took place in Moscow’s Gorky Park. All three victims have had their faces and fingertips removed to make identification harder, so Renko faces a truly difficult challenge. His work is made even harder as he traces the killings to some very highly-placed people in the government and puts his own career – and life – in danger.
Stockholm’s not really any safer for the unwary traveler. That’s what Roseanna McGraw, a visitor from Lincoln, Nebraska, finds out in Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Roseanna. Roseanna is on a tour of Sweden when she’s brutally raped and killed and her body thrown into a canal. Stockholm homicide detective Marin Beck and his team are called in to help investigate the death, and in the process, they find themselves up against several hurdles. One of them is that Roseana isn’t identified at first, so it’s quite a while before they’re able to begin tracing her movements. Another is that Roseanna’s killer is an intelligent but psychopathic killer who was smart enough not to leave evidence behind. In the end, the team uses thorough police work some lucky breaks to find out who killed Roseanna McGraw and why.
What about a cruise? Many people find cruises romantic, restful and enjoyable. Cruises can also be exciting and give one the opportunity to meet lots of new people. Cruises are no less deadly, though, than other kinds of holidays. Just ask Linnett Ridgeway Doyle, whom we meet in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. Linnett and her husband Simon are on a honeymoon cruise up the Nile when Linnet is shot. Suspicion falls first on fellow passenger Jacqueline “Jackie” de Bellefort. She was Simon Doyle’s former fiancée, whom he jilted when he met Linnet. Since their marriage, Jackie’s been following the newlyweds around and on the night of the murder, she actually shot Simon Doyle in the leg. The only problem is, Jackie has a watertight alibi; she was accompanied during the entire evening, so there was no time for her to commit the murder. Hercule Poirot is on the same cruise, as is Colonel Race, another Christie sleuth. Between them, the two men uncover secrets that several people are keeping, and find out who killed Linnet Doyle.
In Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip, we meet Joey Perrone. She’s a former champion swimmer who’s married to Chaz Perrone, a marine scientist. Chaz has figure out a way to “doctor” water samples so that they won’t show toxic waste. That proves to be quite useful to business tycoon Red Hammernut. When Joey figures out what Chaz is doing, Chaz decides to deal with the problem once and for all. He arranges a cruise for the two of them, telling Joey that it’s a surprise anniversary present. Instead of romance, though, he throws her overboard. The hitch in Chaz’ plans comes when Joey doesn’t drown. She is saved by Mick Stranahan, a former investigator for Florida’s Office of the Attorney General. Between them, Joey and Mick concoct a plan to pay Chaz back for this attempted murder. They make him believe that someone saw him push his wife overboard. The resulting paranoia makes Chaz more and more unstable, which is the last thing Red Hammernut wants…
A Peaceful Country Trip
Surely a holiday in the country couldn’t be dangerous. Or could it? In Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are doing just that – taking a holiday in the country. It’s their honeymoon, and they’re spending it at Tallboys, a country home that Wimsey has purchased. When they arrive, though, they find the house closed up and no sign that they were expected. The reason becomes all too clear when they find the body of the former owner, William Noakes, in the basement. Now instead of a peaceful honeymoon, the newlyweds investigate a murder.
And of course, anyone who’s read Martin Edwards’ Lake District mysteries knows all too well that country life is not as safe as it seems. There are a lots of other crime fiction examples, too, that show just how dangerous a country holiday is.
With all of this danger about, maybe a holiday can wait. The workday world doesn’t seem so bad after all….
What do you think? Which holiday destinations have you enjoyed in crime fiction?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Go-Gos' Vacation.