STRANGERS ON THE BEACH
By Josh Pahigian
Islandport Press, 2012
284 pages, $22.95
When Australian billionaire Ferdinand Sevigny leaves on his yacht for a record-breaking solo sail across the Atlantic to North Africa, he never realizes his egotistical stunt might cost him much more than just his life.
“Strangers on the Beach” is Buxton author Josh Pahigian’s debut mystery novel about a self-indulgent man whose supreme selfish desire to protect his precious image, international reputation and a dark secret nearly destroys everyone around him.
Pahigian is a writer for ESPN and has written seven non-fiction books about baseball. But this first novel shows his keen ability to craft a suspenseful mystery plot peopled with vivid and engaging characters.
Sevigny’s solo-sailing stunt is a fraud, but an unexpected and violent betrayal at sea results in a shipwreck, and he and a strange young woman named Marisol are washed up on the shore at Old Orchard Beach. The woman hides out with the kind man who saved her from drowning, and Sevigny hides himself (and his secret) in a posh beachfront hotel while the authorities search for his body, thinking he is dead.
As the town thrives on the excitement, a sinister force arrives in OOB intent on multiple murder, inspiring blackmail, theft, assault and the artful manipulation of people’s weaknesses and desperation. And no one is immune to this threat — not even the police.
When Sevigny finally announces his presence to the townspeople, Marisol reveals that she, too, is alive, setting both of them on a path of possible redemption and certain danger. Add a beachcomber who holds the key to the mystery but doesn’t know it (and never will), a naïve and trustful teen boy, two policemen with fatally different views of Sevigny, OOB tourists and townies and a creepy dose of greed, lust and revenge, and Pahigian has a sure hit.
COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS: THE PEOPLE’S GARDEN
By William Cullina, Dorothy E. Freeman, and Barbara Hill Freeman
Down East Books, 2012
192 pages, $34.95
English philosopher and essayist Francis Bacon (1561-1626) once declared: “God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” If Bacon were alive today, and could see the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, he would be pleased to know he was right.
“Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens” is a beautifully illustrated history of a “world class botanical garden,” set on 248 acres of mixed topography, “a place of beauty certainly, but also a place of ideas, education and research.”
Written by three key CMBG staff members, the book chronicles the remarkable history of the gardens from the creation in 1991 to the grand opening in 2007, and on to today’s continuing effort to delight, enchant and educate people about Maine’s unique horticulture.
The authors tell of the grassroots effort of local Mainers to plan, finance and develop the gardens, highlighting the dedication and resourcefulness of hundreds of volunteers, contributors and generous benefactors.
They vividly describe (and illustrate with gorgeous color photographs) the gardens’ special features and the thoughtful way this coastal habitat showcases native flowers, shrubs, trees and rocks, arranged in 12 distinct areas. For example, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses focuses on plants, water and stone to enhance the senses of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing. The new two-acre children’s garden offers a safe, magical place to play amidst a whimsical cottage, treehouse, bear cave and Indian camp.
There is also the kitchen garden (vegetables and herbs), shoreland trail along the Back River, the rose and perennial garden, the woodland garden, rhododendron garden and others. As good as this book is at portraying the CMBG’s beauty and serenity, Mainers should visit and spend a day there to fully appreciate this horticultural triumph.
— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.