The Vacation by John Marrs

Posted 23 December, 2023 by Heather in Audiobook, Blog, Blog Tour, Book Excerpt, Book Review, Heather, Heather Book Review / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from the Bought, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Vacation by John MarrsThe Vacation by John Marrs
Published by Hanover Square Press, Harlequin on December 19, 2023
Genres: Fiction / Crime, Fiction / Literary, Fiction / Mystery & Detective / General, Fiction / Thrillers / Suspense
Pages: 480
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Bought, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

“John Marrs’s creative, high-concept thrillers never fail to keep me furiously turning the pages."—Sarah Pearse

"John Marrs can do no wrong." —Jack Jordan

"John Marrs is a master of suspense." —Jeneva Rose

How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth. Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood. But for eight strangers at a beach-front hostel, there is far more on their minds than an extended vacation. All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

Want a thriller or mystery to cozy up under a blanket with, to read the day away during the holidays? John Marrs’ THE VACATION will fit the bill. Here’s an excerpt and stick around at the end for my review.


Venice Beach, Los Angeles 

    “That’s her,” the driver yelled to the three men waiting in the rear of the transit van. 

    He pointed a gloved finger in the direction of a slender woman walking along the sidewalk up ahead. 

    “You sure?” a gruff voice asked. “It’s pretty dark out there.”

    The driver was very sure. He’d watched carefully as his target walked with purpose in her high heels. He recalled her appearance an hour earlier as she made her way up a stainless-steel pole before slowly, seductively descending.

    “Yeah, man,” he replied. “You don’t forget a pretty little ass like that in a hurry, even from this distance.”

    He was confident their mark was completely oblivious to her impending fate. She stopped suddenly, searching for something that was seemingly wedged in her clutch bag; the streetlamps and neon shop signs illuminated the glitter in her hair. The driver lifted his foot slightly from the accelerator and dipped the headlights as he continued to stalk his prey. Meanwhile, his colleagues slipped black balaclavas over their heads and adjusted their bodies into position—one knelt with his hand gripping the door lever, ready to open it on command; another held plastic restraints, and the third clasped a hunting knife with a serrated blade.

    “Ready?” the driver asked. They grunted in unison. 

    The van sped up, but not so fast as to throw the hunters from the positions they’d rehearsed earlier that day. Then, as it pulled up alongside the woman, the door flew open and the first of her assailants sprang out.

    The man with the restraints was the first to reel backward into the vehicle as a bullet from her revolver tore its way through his shoulder blade, taking fragments of collarbone with it. 

    For a split second, the flash from the gun’s muzzle illuminated the van’s interior as she pinpointed two more would-be assailants poised to drag her inside. Twice more she pulled the trigger; twice more she heard the men screaming. The driver remained rooted to his seat, baffled by how off-kilter their mission had suddenly gone. They had been so confident of its success that there was no Plan B.

    “Go, man, go!” yelled a desperate voice as another bullet found its target. 

    Tires squealed as the van lurched forward, veering across the median and then crisscrossing back toward the sidewalk. 

    A combination of adrenaline and fury propelled the woman to kick off her heels and run after it, firing twice more and shattering its rear windshield. The vehicle clipped an LA Times newsstand, hurling newspapers into the air; they fell like large chunks of confetti.

    She fired one last time, but the van had already corrected itself and sped off out of range. Then she watched in horror as that final shot sent a stranger up ahead, carrying a backpack, sprawling face forward onto the pavement. 

    Time froze as the consequences of her last reckless bullet resonated. 

    She had just killed an innocent tourist.

Excerpted from The Vacation. Copyright © 2023 by John Marrs. Published by Hanover Square Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.


My Thoughts:

THE VACATION starts off with a literal bang, and then you’re straight into the story of eight different strangers as they interact at a rundown hostel in Venice Beach. All eight of the characters have their reasons for leaving their homes and lives behind, just to be entangled at the hostel. Their histories and reasons for being there are slowly revealed throughout the book, some are tragic, some are sinister, and some are just downright sad as well.

The characters really evolved throughout the pages and I grew to understand why they were doing what they are from John Marrs’ interesting and immersive story telling. The pacing seems quick since each character’s point of view is told in there own chapters which are short. The flashbacks to see their histories are clearly marked so even when listening to the audiobook it was easy to keep track of. However, since there’s eight main characters and many side characters, it was a bit hard to keep track of who was who for the first quarter of the book.

I give THE VACATION a four out of five. I enjoyed listening to this book on Audible. There was a surprising amount of violence and murder in the characters’ pasts, and that’s certainly shaped them into who they are in the present day of the novel. I really liked how their lives entwined, both in the present and the past in surprising ways. The narrator for the audiobook was fantastic, but it was a bit confusing since there were so many characters to keep straight. Overall, it was a well-paced novel that I enjoyed.



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About John Marrs

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan. Follow him at , on Twitter @johnmarrs1, on Instagram and on Facebook at

Find John Marrs

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I'm a PhD chemist who loves sarcasm, music, and books-paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and romance. Most of my free time is spent at the martial arts studio these days--whether practicing Combat Hapkido or reading books while watching my son's Taekwondo classes, or even working up a sweat with Kickboxing for fun. Goodreads

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