Beach Reads

By Cindy Bilbao

coastline of martha's vineyard

These novels are full of secrets and suspense set along the shore.


mystery book set on beach


By Laura Lippman

A normal summer vacation is planned out, a house is rented, and beach toys are packed up. This is how the story begins for Polly’s family as they take their little girl to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, like any other family that summer. But, unlike other families, on the second day of vacation Polly gets up from her beach chair and walks away while her daughter is playing in the sand with her father, never to return.

In this dark, suspenseful novel, Polly finds herself in the small town Belleville, just over the causeway from the beach. She didn’t intend to stay here, and was going to head to Reno for a quickie divorce, but she rather likes Adam, the man she just met in the diner.

Summer heats up as the two begin an affair, each one holding back secrets. When there is a death in the small town, it is unclear whether it was accidental or part of a greater plan. This story will have you guessing the entire time. Is Polly a cold, devious mother who could walk away from her child without a second thought, or is there something else going on?

The psychological suspense is gripping right up until the very end. If you read this on the beach don’t forget to apply sunscreen first. You’ll lose all track of time and get sunburned!

book set on martha's vineyard in 1800s

Painting The Light

By Sally Cabot Gunning

During a visit to the beach in Cape Cod one weekend, a novel in the front window of a quaint little bookstore grabbed my attention. The story is set on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, at the turn of the 20th century when the women’s suffrage movement was a controversial topic of the day.

Readers will fall in love with Sally Gunning’s strong, fascinating protagonist named Ida Russell, a budding watercolor painter who lives in Boston. After a tragic loss, she gives up her love for painting  and her life in Boston to marry Ezra Pease, a sheep farmer in Martha’s Vineyard.

With difficult in-laws, the hard duties of farming that she has taken on, and a husband who has grown distant, Ida yearns for an escape from her life. One day a tragedy occurs that throws her life into a tailspin, with the revelations of secrets and shocking results.

Read more beach book recommendations from Cindy Bilbao.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2022 issue.

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