The Perfect Holiday is set on the island of Mallorca and tells the story of Julian, a man enjoying a long summer holiday in an isolated villa with his second wife, Olivia. His life appears idyllic, but four years previously, his first wife, Helen, was murdered in a case that remains unsolved.
The inspiration for this novel was much less glamorous than the setting it ended up in. I’d been thinking for a long time about unpaid carers and the often unrecognised and unrewarded contribution they make to society. Most of us will have to care for someone at some point in our lives, and it can be lonely and exhausting work. As I considered these issues, I came up with the character of Julian, a man who has always put duty before his own freedom. A child carer for his sick father, Julian then had to look after his first wife, Helen, who was seriously injured in a car accident. I wondered what would happen if Julian found himself unable to cope with his responsibilities. If he decided, for once, to put his own needs first.
As a fan of Patricia Highsmith and her flawed protagonists, I’d been wanting to write an anti-hero for a long time. A character who dares to transcend the moral codes of society. An anti-hero like Julian struggles with the same moral conflicts as the rest of us. We all make choices between our duty to others and our own freedom, sometimes daily. During the pandemic, we faced this choice on a national and global level. We could follow the rules imposed on us and protect our fellow citizens, or we could put our own needs first and risk harming others.
Life often imitates art in uncanny ways. While writing this book, I was also helping to care for my best friend, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The experience was both hugely rewarding and, at times, extremely trying. She and I often joked how the bad days gave me insight into what Julian might have experienced during his years as a carer.
In The Perfect Holiday, we get to vicariously explore what happens when Julian follows his darker impulses and puts freedom before duty. I hope his journey proves as thrilling for the reader as it was enjoyable for me to write.