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edge staff writer


Meeting Strangers on the Beach'

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Maine native pens engaging, entertaining thriller

It's easy to tell when an author sets a novel in a place for which he or she has a genuine affection. When that love of place is there, it informs the entire piece with truth and honesty that makes the narrative really come to life.

Author Josh Pahigian clearly carries that sort of affection for Old Orchard Beach, the Maine tourist town that serves as the backdrop to his novel 'Strangers on the Beach.'

Ferdinand Sevigny is an Australian millionaire mogul, one of the 50 richest men in the world. He is a globetrotting adventurer, making it his midlife mission to rewrite the record books, tackling jungle treks and mountain climbs and making hot-air balloon flights and ocean voyages. He is one of the most famous men in the world, but also one of the most mysterious.

Sevigny's latest adventure involves sailing solo across the Atlantic while blindfolded. However, this journey has barely begun before it falls apart. His boat is discovered just off the Maine coast and assorted detritus is washing up onshore at Old Orchard Beach. Sevigny is believed lost at sea.

This ill-fated voyage sets the town abuzz, with assorted members of the community finding themselves swept up into various levels of intrigue. It soon becomes apparent that this was no mere accident. The mystery only deepens as strange newcomers newcomers involved with Sevigny and his voyage appear in town, ingratiating themselves with the locals.

The story goes deeper as people struggle to make sense of the madness that Sevigny has seemingly brought to Old Orchard Beach. Residents of the town find themselves entangled in the web of conspiracy surrounding the mysterious Australian. There are forces at work that none of them truly comprehend, with people finding themselves serving as pawns in a game that is far vaster and far more inscrutable than any of them could possibly know.

Pahigian has constructed a complex thriller, filled with engaging and eccentric characters. The story unfolds gradually, but it never feels slow-moving. His Old Orchard Beach is populated by fully-realized characters, people whose motivations never feel anything but honest. As we watch these people being enveloped by circumstances whose ramifications they don't fully understand, Pahigian pulls us along with them, slowly building to a climax that is unexpected in the moment, yet seems almost inevitable after the fact.

Discussing individual characters would do a disservice to the mystery that Pahigian has assembled, but suffice it to say his cast of characters is populated with rich, nuanced people real people. The fact that they are fully realized lends impact to the events that transpire around them.

The author's love of Old Orchard Beach is palpable so much so that the town itself is very much a character in this story, and a major one at that. A strong sense of place permeates the entire novel, creating a world in which the reader can fully invest. His rendering of the town is the solid foundation upon which the rest of his tale is built.

Twists and turns abound in this tale; the author adeptly dekes and dodges, keeping the reader guessing throughout. It's the best kind of thriller the kind that matters because the character matters. Without that empathy, the mystery would be empty, little more than an attractive faade masking a trifle. Instead, we get a tense rendering of the butterfly effect of one man's impact on a sleepy seaside town, engaging from the first page to the last.

'Strangers on the Beach' is wonderful storytelling, bringing people and places to life while offering a glimpse of the ramifications of the choices we make.


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