Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
beach reading
starry skies to read under
reading in nature

Five Nights on a cruise ship with Rachel Wolf

  • Submitted: 21st February 2024

Five Nights on a cruise ship with Rachel Wolf

Sun, sea, cocktails – what’s not to love? That works with murder too, right?

Five Nights Rachel Wolf

FIVE NIGHTS – a tale of toxic friendship and characters you love to hate – had been lurking round in my brain for a while. I must have mentioned cruise ships as a possible location, because although we’d never been on one, my husband suggested a cruise out of the blue. It was the summer we were coming out of lockdown, when we’d been trapped in the house for months.  We weren’t allowed to leave the country, but everyone was desperate to get away.

Rachel Wolf

Rachel Wolf

Map of locations in Five Nights

Cruise liners had been anchored the whole of lockdown, and began offering trips around the UK and along the English Channel. We opted for a channel cruise out of Portsmouth – where my cruise in FIVE NIGHTS begins. Once onboard, we were handed a glass of champagne, and it took about five minutes to decide it was the perfect setting for the novel. What better environment for deceit and murder than one with free-flowing champagne?


Map of locations in Five Nights

There were so many bars, including a champagne bar; fourteen restaurants, plus an ice cream stand and a sweet shop stand. We had midnight ice cream on the way to our cabins after dinner and drinks, and grabbed bags of sweets after a run in the morning.

There was loads to do – certainly enough to build a narrative around. There was a running track on the top deck that we used each morning, along with a basketball court and a gym. There was also a swimming pool and lots of hot tubs. I tried everything and then worked it into the plot. The challenge was how to darken it up. I needed tension and suspicion as well as luxury, so I spent an afternoon carefully planning a rough plot.

Map of locations in Five Nights

Years ago I lived in Bologna, and I came up with a character who was from Bologna and now lived in Sicily, and so she became the wife of Mattia Scarmardo (my billionaire). He was brought up in Newcastle (near my home town) by an Italian mother. With this combination, I knew I could take full advantage of the stunning Italian locations but also introduce an English family with a glamorous edge and money to burn.

Map of locations in Five Nights

My final location in the novel is New York, the destination of the cruise. I visited New York a few years ago for work, so I had a good feel of the city.

Onboard, I could see a story unfolding around me. I then set about researching. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful. We had a tour round the best cabins – complete with two reception rooms and a private balcony with hot tub and seated outside area. We also had a private tour of the bridge from the captain. He looked a little perturbed when I asked about procedures if people went overboard or what happened if someone died onboard; but he was very helpful! He carefully talked me through the onboard security.

There are many kinds of cruise ships – just look at this one!

Adventure of the Seas Cruise ship

Map of locations in Five Nights

A year later I had a working first draft and a publishing deal. I felt it was important to spend a few days on a cruise again, to make sure I had everything right. I booked a Portsmouth to Ghent cruise with a few friends. The sense of claustrophobia and tension kicked in quickly, however. I came down with Covid and was moved to the medical deck. The care was top notch, but I felt isolated in my cabin. The luxury and freedom suddenly vanished. It was a lovely cabin, and the food was excellent – but I couldn’t really taste it and I wanted to be at home. When my protagonist suddenly feels trapped somewhere she has no wish to be, well, that’s all written from first-hand experience!

Writing Five Nights was so much fun. Even writing about backstabbing and murder onboard hasn’t put me off cruising.


Five Nights by Rachel Wolf is published on the 29th February by Head of Zeus at £9.99


BookTrail Boarding Pass: Five Nights

Twitter: @RachelWolfWritr

Back to Authorsonlocation

Featured Book

The Wren in the Holly Library

2000s: A dark, spicy romantasy loosely inspired by Beauty and the Beast

Read more