Short Take: When your mama says “don’t talk to strangers”, FREAKIN LISTEN.
Good morning, duckies, from the land of the massively sleep-deprived! I took a much-needed road trip to attend a book launch for one of my favorite authors about four hours away yesterday. I was going to drive, but while I was all about “not wasting time” the Spousal Unit kept going on about “speeding” (to-may-to/to-mah-to, right?), so we switched spots and I was able to finish reading Stranger from the comfort of the passenger seat which may or may not have been my intention all along.
But I digress.
Caroline Stark Has It All. She’s got a gorgeous face and body, mega-rich also-gorgeous husband, multi-million dollar beach house, and of course, the envy of everyone around her. So when her husband Jason brings another woman to Caroline’s extravagant housewarming party, then takes off with said woman, Caroline is devastated.
Distraught, she spends a night drowning her feelings in vodka and Aidan Callahan – bartender, Brad-Pitt-lookalike, and Man With A Dark Past who’s a little too fixated on Caroline and her house for someone she’s just met.
But after that steamy night, things get… complicated. Caroline wants to reconcile with Jason, but Aidan believes that he and Caroline are meant to be together. What follows, for the next two-thirds of the book is a strange, hallucinatory narrative, in which Caroline and Aidan give contradicting accounts of every interaction, until it’s impossible to tell what’s real, a lie, or a delusion..
Of course, in the end, All Secrets Are Revealed, and there’s a big twist followed by a happy ending for the person who deserves it.
A Stranger On The Beach is a serviceable thriller. The pacing is decent, the characters are fairly developed, but it just doesn’t work. I’ll admit, it could be my own form of cynicism, or that I’ve read too many of these types of books, When it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s often a safe assumption that it’s a chicken.
Ms. Campbell has a great feel for an interesting story, but lacks subtlety. There are several points when a revelation should have been shocking, but the author tries too hard with the red herrings. It’s like a stage magician shouting “Look over there!”. Sure, it’s a type of misdirection, but not a particularly effective one, and most audiences will figure out pretty quickly what the actual trick is.
And when it’s a trick you’ve seen many times before, it’s that much harder to be excited by it.
The Nerd’s Rating: THREE HAPPY NEURONS (and a nice long nap!)