Readers would be forgiven for having burn-out from the proliferation of destination mysteries. There have certainly been more than a few of them in the past few years, often without much variation. The trouble with this type of fatigue is that sometimes there really can be a gem in the mix that gets overlooked. For example, The Resort—the debut novel from Sara Ochs—takes many of the tropes found in this specialized sub-genre, but manages to manipulate them in such a way as to make them remarkably fresh and truly unforgettable.

Koh Sang is a secluded island off the coast of Thailand. A place to go to forget your troubles and reinvent yourself. Most people come and go, but for a few—The Permanents—Koh Sang has become a forever refuge. Or maybe a hideaway.

The Resort is told using dual narration, alternating chapters from the perspectives of Cass (who represents those who have chosen Koh Sang as their home) and Brooke (a new guest trying to navigate the complex dynamics around the island.) When Brooke befriends Cass, she finds a way to quietly infiltrate the bonds among The Permanents.

Everything seems like it is going well, until one of Cass’s dive students is found dead. Suddenly everyone is acting guilty and suspicion around the tropical setting runs rampant. With everyone keeping secrets, Ochs deflects readers’ attention as she continues to heighten the drama and suspense.

The Resort works so well because Cass and Brooke are very different characters—despite sharing some similar traits. The slow build of their friendship keeps the early chapters interesting, even while readers know from the prologue that something is going to go horribly wrong on the night of the big beach celebration.

The leisurely pace of the first half of The Resort exists in stark contrast to the bullet-train speed later in the book as secrets begin to be revealed. And believe me, there are plenty of secrets—some that connect to the murder investigation and some that exist to elevate the level of suspense and throw red herrings at the reader. Fans of this type of novel will figure some things out, but Sara Ochs is going to make sure that every reader has at least one “holy smokes, I didn’t see that coming” moment while reading The Resort.

The final few chapters—still racing at a breakneck pace—are crafted with a satisfying ending in mind. There are many loose ends to be tied up and Sara Ochs knows exactly what she is doing. What starts as a beach read has suddenly become a thriller of the highest order—with both the characters and the reader feeling the effects.

With a debut as strong as The Resort, Sara Ochs is well on her way to becoming “a permanent” in the crime fiction community.

BUY LINKS: The Resort by Sara Ochs

Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.