Thursday, April 3, 2014

"The Girl on the Beach" by Velda Johnston

Published:  1987
Setting:  Modern Day

"...someone had been walking along that narrow strip of sand between the low breakers and the wide swathe of rocks.  A woman.  A young woman, to judge by her slenderness and her lithe walk.  Well, that wasn't surprising, even on a night this chill.  

The woman had stopped at turned toward the house...The girls dress, also of some pale color, was a loose, caftan-like garment.  For a moment that puzzled Kate.  In her mind, caftans were associated with warm weather.  Then she realized that there was no reason why a caftan should not be made of wool rather than gauze.

The girl turned, then moved on up the beach..."

After recently breaking up with her long-term boyfriend and suffering a miscarriage after a head-on collision, Kate is reeling with lack of creativity and a deep sense of depression.  She has no family since the death of her mother, and she hasn't spoken to her father in over twenty years.

When her job begins to suffer as well, Kate's boss recommends a vacation, that's when Kate remembers the tiny coastal town her family vacationed at in Northern Carolina when she was merely a child.  Before she knows it, Kate has rented a house that sits along the stretch of a rocky beach.  She plans to relax and try her hand at painting while mending from recent disappointments.

But things aren't as calm as she was hoping, particularly after she comes face to face with what she thinks is a ghost on the first night of her stay.  In addition to that, she is visited by a stranger named Martin, who says he once owned the house.  Later, once she's beginning to feel an attraction for Martin, she will realize that he's spent twelve years in jail for murdering his wife in the very beach house for which she resides!

However, knowing the truth of Martin's past does not distract her from the attraction she feels for the man, and she continues to try to get to know him while also doing some of her own private detective work.  Kate believes that Martin is innocent of killing his scandalous, simple minded, wife and has been framed for a crime he did not commit.  Yet, the more Kate pries, the more Martin pulls away.

Everyone tells Kate to forget about her detective work, to go home and resume her normal life, but she can't.  She has found herself entrapped in the mystery of a fortune, of a philandering dead wife, and of murder case that was botched, at best.  She has to stay and find the truth.  Even after attempts are made on her life and she hears someone in her house in the late night hours, Kate stays on.  Will she find redemption for the man she's fallen in love with, or will the haunted coastal town pull her into the depths of it's murderous grip?

I really enjoyed this book.  I particularly loved the setting and the beach house.  I also appreciate the subplot of the murder, as it seemed an original whodunit.  However, I felt that the book lacked a certain energy, there was not enough chaos or suspense.  Although the book was a fast read at little less than 200 pages, the whole plot was slow-moving and not exactly exciting.  Nothing was ever really worked up to the breaking point.  I'd still recommend it for an entertaining, light read.

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