Book Review: The Vacation by John Marrs

“How far would you run to escape your past?”

The 2021 re-release of Welcome To Whoever You Are, The Vacation is set on Venice Beach, Los Angeles, where tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood. But for eight strangers at a beachfront hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation. All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…


Thank you to NetGalley for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Multi-layered and character-driven, The Vacation is a well-developed story about a large group of characters whose paths meet by accident. And just for a little while, their lives become entangled.

As with most of Marrs books, there are a lot of characters to get used to (maybe just a few too many this time), but he describes his characters so well that it doesn’t take long to get to know them all. There were two characters that I especially felt connected to, but I could picture them all quite vividly which isn’t something all authors can do very well.

However, I did feel like the story was really dragging at various points. And then I realised that the book is 496 pages long, which is just too much for a book like this. Had it been cut down by 100 pages, I wouldn’t haven’t grown so tired of the story and been able to appreciate the characters much more.

The Vacation is a good book, especially as one of Marr’s earlier releases, and it certainly showcases his writing talent. But I do think that it should have stayed in the past. Everybody is becoming a fan of John Marrs these days and it’s definitely well deserved, so we are all bound to revisit his earlier work at some point. But seeing how his writing has developed over the years, this one doesn’t live up to the standards of his books today so I don’t quite see the need for a re-release.

The trouble I have is that I don’t think the new promotional material works for this book at all. The new cover photo and tagline of “Sun, sea, sex, murder” are very misleading. There’s no sun or sex or even very much sea. And the tagline makes it seem like it’s going to be a whodunnit, but murder really isn’t the focus here.

It’s much more than that, and the original image of backpackers in a dry heat worked much better, as the story is about these random lives coming together which is what backpacking is all about. So I think the new image and text will only disappoint readers who will be expecting something more fast-paced and exciting.

If you’re already a fan of Marrs, this one probably won’t exceed your expectations. But if you’re new to him as an author and this is your first experience of his writing, this is a great teaser of what’s to come, and you’ve got many so brilliant books to look forward to!


The Vacation by John Marrs
Release Date: 24th June 2021
Print Length: 496 pages
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

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