The sun lounger also rises...but not just yet

Don't even try to kid yourself that this holiday will see you wading through literary tomes or worthy political memoirs. We know what you want

You can pretend all you like that this will be the holiday during which you settle down and get to grips with Anne Enright's Man Booker-winning The Gathering. And you know this isn't the year you will finish off the autobiographies of the last Labour government.

It's time we all accepted that what really works on a sun lounger, in a busy airport or curled up in a holiday rental is a bit of rollicking storytelling – suspense, romance, or just a story packed with nicely timed gags. As increasing numbers of us realise that a strategically filled ebook reader allows us to discreetly indulge in beach reads whatever the occasion, please enjoy this guide to holiday novels that work as well on the seafront as they do back at home. Just don't call them guilty pleasures, okay?

Nicci French (also known as the husband-and-wife team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) have cornered the market in unsettling thrillers in which nice middle-class girls see their world turn upside down. Blue Monday (Penguin, £12.99) marks the beginning of their first series, and stars the psychotherapist Frieda Klein. Frieda has all the hallmarks of a classic Nicci French character, but when one of her patients reveals fantasies that tie in with a child abduction case that is dominating the headlines, she ends up coming to the police's aid rather than vice versa. The plot is drum-tight, the premise is chilling and the twist is infuriatingly good. Its only flaw is the wait for the follow up.

Rosamund Lupton's Sister was one of last year's biggest sellers, and was notable for its unusual voice and "Oh God, I have to talk to someone about this now" twist. Her second novel, Afterwards (Piatkus, £7.99), uses a similar device, in that it is told from the point of view of Grace and her daughter Jenny, who are victims of an arson attack on Jenny's school, and both comatose. So far, so Lovely Bones, but Lupton does a good job of having the unconscious pair trying to help solve the mystery of who was responsible, and communicating it to those who might be able to help. The set-up takes a little while to bed in, but Afterwards is ultimately a curiously compulsive story.

Erin Kelly occupies similarly suburban territory with The Sick Rose (Hodder, £14.99), the follow-up to her absorbing debut, The Poison Tree. It elegantly weaves together the stories of Louisa and Paul, each of whom is running from a damaged past: Louisa's hippyish teen rebellion – a swirl of 1990s Kensington Market and angsty gigs with boys who should know better – and Paul's school years of grief and being bullied. A love affair begins between the pair, and as the romance rattles forward, Kelly's particular combination of the romantic and the macabre makes for a tense, unsettling read.

Romance is rarely the focus in Sophie Hannah's world, and Lasting Damage (Hodder, £12.99) is as addictively creepy as her previous thrillers. Connie Bowskill is house-hunting online in the middle of one night when she spots a dead body on one of the virtual tours. When the police look into the situation, it becomes increasingly unclear whether a crime has actually been committed, or whether Connie is slowly becoming unhinged. Taking those 3am horrors and turning them into a story that just won't be scrubbed from your mind is quite a gift, and Hannah has it. Neither house-hunting nor Cambridgeshire has ever seemed so dangerous.

Brighton is the setting for Peter James's mega-selling Roy Grace novels. Dead Man's Grip (Macmillan, £18.99) is the latest, and sees him continuing to make formidable use of what is clearly an extensive body of research with Sussex's police force. As a sort of Ian Rankin of the South, James takes the seaside delights of arguably the UK's most relaxed city and flips them on their head. Here, we see the repercussions of what seems like a simple traffic accident reach as far as the US. The soap-style narrative of the police force runs excellently alongside the crimes that form the grit in Brighton's oyster.

Harlan Coben is a similarly reliable storyteller and his laid-back tone and ever-steady approach to plotting are as evident in Live Wire (Orion, £18.99) as usual. The action kicks off for regular hero Myron Bolitar when social networking sites begin to play host to vicious rumours about an unborn baby's alleged paternity. Coben's dialogue is as punchy and readable as ever, and his tone easily makes the shift to an online environment. This is another novel that will manage both to raise the heart rate and serve as a relaxing treat.

Eleanor Moran's Breakfast in Bed (Sphere, £6.99) takes us toward the female end of the commercial market, but remains defiantly superior women's fiction. The ink is still drying on 31-year-old Amber Price's divorce papers when she finds herself having to smile gamely at the weddings of dearest friends. So much more than chick lit, this is comedic fiction with a gag-rate at which the team behind Bridesmaids would surely doff their caps.

Love Always (Harper, £7.99, £3.99 Kindle ed), is a more romantic read, but it's not all boy-meets-girl in Harriet Evans's latest. With a gorgeous Cornish setting, a ladleful of family secrets and a nice line in unashamedly dreamy dialogue, this feels like Rosamunde Pilcher rebooted – in the best possible way.

Sam Baker tugs just as hard on the heartstrings in To My Best Friends (Harper, £7.99), in which a woman bequeaths the things that mean the most to her to her best pals. This novel is set in "middle youth" territory, and all the better for it, as romances, families and careers are all affected by the death of a loved one. Be warned: you'll need someone to discuss it with as soon as you've turned the final page, and make sure you have tissues to hand.

Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything (Penguin Classics, £8.99, first published in 1958, has been repackaged and reprinted in the wake of Mad Men. Secretaries, cocktails, office gossip – it's always been a heady combination, and it works as well here as it later did in Valley of the Dolls and Sex and the City. Like a giggly night out with the girls when you're all wearing fabulous cocktail dresses and sharing the best stories, it is impossible to finish it feeling down in the mouth.

A final tip of the hat goes to the fifth book in George R R Martin's Game of Thrones series, A Dance With Dragons (Harper Voyager, £25), which sees the exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen at the top of her game. Anyone who found themselves longing for a direwolf this spring will struggle not to finish this before they set off for the airport. But there is no shame in that, because the whole series has had many people cancelling plans so that they can stay in and read.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform