Maine resident Josh Pahigian’s first novel Strangers on a Beach (2012, Islandport Press) is what I consider the perfect type of “summer read”. By that I mean it is a mystery/thriller that will hold your attention until the end, the type of book to take on vacation, one you can put down to have some fun, then pick up when you have a relaxing moment. That is not to say you cannot read this in the dead of winter; it’s just the location of the book (Old Orchard Beach, Maine) lends itself to summer and playing in the waves or sitting on the beach getting some sun. I leave it up to you where you want to read this mystery novel.
The Beach, The Strangers
Old Orchard Beach (OOB) is a summer vacation spot frequented by Canadians and Americans alike. It has a long pier and a theme park for all to enjoy. And miles of beach, too. The ‘strangers’ in the title are known to one another, yet to the town of OOB, they are total strangers who have literally washed up on shore due to a sailing mishap out at sea. The current has carried their bodies and belongings to the beach where they interact with several of the townspeople, using them to their own ends while continuing to fight their own inter-personal battles once they discover that the others survived. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, entitled Bountiful Sea:
As if this discovery hadn’t made for a special-enough morning, after Sally passed the first condo and then the long yellow expanse of the Copley Motel, something else caught her eye. She squinted into the wet sand that shimmered beneath the climbing sun and was practically trotting by the time she reached the outermost edge of a fifty-foot stretch where various objects were tumbling in the gentle waves. It looked like someone had dumped a wardrobe, pantry, and dresser into the sea. Sally began scooping up whatever she could and ferrying items of interest to higher ground. She would have time to sort through the bounty later. First, she needed to safeguard as much of it as possible against the tide. Here was a woman’s shoe. There, a bobbing water bottle. A lantern. A pair of pants. Another shoe. An orange vest. A sopping book. A plastic container. Pants. Shirts. A black dress.
I always enjoy reading stories based in places I have stayed or visited, and Strangers on the Beach is no exception. For a first novel, Mr. Pahigian has chosen a familiar location, a Richard Branson-type billionaire, a jealous nephew and a beautiful consort to compose the “strangers”. The locals are real; likely composites based on real people the author lives among. It all makes for a great read, whether you are on vacation, or reading snug and warm in your favourite chair during the off-season.