Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun, for instance, takes place at the Jolly Roger Hotel on Leathercombe Bay, off the Devon coast. Hercule Poirot is taking a holiday there, as are several other guests. Among those other guests are Captain Kenneth Marshall, his wife, Arlena Stuart Marshall and his daughter Linda Marshall. Shortly after the family’s arrival, gossip starts to go around about Arlena Marshall, who’s both beautiful and notorious, and her budding relationship with another guest Patrick Redfern. Then one day, Arlena is found strangled on a nearby beach. Since was Poirot was probably the last person to see her alive (besides the killer, of course), he gets involved in the investigation. At first, it looks like a case of jealousy gone horribly wrong, but it’s not long before Kenneth Marshall is able to prove an unbreakable alibi. With Marshall off the list of suspects, Poirot and the police have to look elsewhere for the killer.
Paul Alexis finds the coast to be a very dangerous place in Dorothy Sayers’ Have His Carcase. Harriet Vane is taking a hiking holiday near Wilvercombe when she discovers Alexis’ body. Vane alerts the authorities, but by the time they get back to the scene, the tide has come in, and there are very few clues as to what happened to the victim. It’s soon clear, though, that he’s been murdered, so the police look into his background to find out who would have wanted to murder him. Alexis, who has a Russian background, is a professional dancer at a local hotel. At first, it seems that he’s been murdered as a part of a Russian political plot, but it’s not long before that theory, too, turns out to be wrong. Lord Peter Wimsey joins the investigation and he and Vane discover that one key to Alexis’ death lies in the cracking of an interesting cipher. In the end, the sleuths find out that Alexis’ death had nothing to do with his Russian background.
In Minette Walters’ The Breaker, brothers Paul and Daniel Spender are exploring near Chapman’s Pool in Dorset when they discover the body of thirty-one-year-old Kate Sumner washed up on the beach. The boys tell their story to Stephen Harding, an actor who’s taking a holiday in the area, and who is the first adult on the scene. Harding, in turn, contacts the police and soon, P.C. Nick Ingram begins an investigation. In the meantime, Kate’s three-year-old daughter Hannah is found wandering around in the nearby town of Poole. Ingram works with DI Galbraith, WPC Griffiths and Superintendent Carpenter to look into Kate Sumner’s life and find out who would have wanted to kill her. There are really only three viable suspects. One of them is Kate Sumner’s husband William; another is Harding himself, who knew Kate better than he admits. The third is Harding’s room-mate Tony Bridges, who’s also hiding what he knows about Kate. In the end, we find that Kate’s murder was what you would call a psychological one.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s’s My Soul to Take also shows us the dangers of the coast. In that novel, Reykjavík attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired by Jónas Júlíusson to pursue a lawsuit. He’s a spa and resort owner who wants to sue the former owners of the land on which he built his resort. His claim is that the area is haunted and the owners never informed him of that fact. Thóra doesn’t believe in ghosts or haunting, but the fee appeals to her, as does the chance for a spa holiday while she’s investigating the claims. Shortly after her arrival at the spa, Thóra gets swept up in a much more important investigation. The body of another guest, architect Birna Hálldorsdóttir, is found on the beach not far from the spa. Jónas Júlíusson is suspected of the murder, since he had a relationship with Birna, and it becomes clear that she was not a “one-man woman.” So Thóra agrees to defend her client against this new charge. With help from her lover Matthew Reich, Thóra discovers who the real killer is, and how that murder is related to the long-ago disappearance of a local child.
And then there’s Ely Griffith’s House at Sea's End. Ruth Galloway is the Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk. She is also a new mother. She returns to her work after maternity leave only to get involved in an eerie investigation. A team of archaeologists is doing a study of coastal erosion near Broughton Seas End, a lonely seaside village. In the course of their work, the team has discovered six skeletons. So Galloway begins the work of finding out whose remains the team has found and why these people died. When it’s clear that the skeletons are of people who were murdered, Galloway finds herself working with the one person she was hoping to steer clear of: DCI Harry Nelson, the father of Galloway’s daughter Kate. It turns out that the sixty-year-old bodies are not of local people, but likely are Germans. It also turns out that their deaths are related to a local wartime secret. When a journalist who’s following the course of the investigation is found dead, it’s obvious that someone doesn’t want that secret discovered.
In Tim Comstock’s Reunion at Carmel, we meet Carmel, California’s Chief of Police Will Kempton. Kempton and his children moved to Carmel after the tragic death of his wife Debbie, and the family has settled in reasonably well. Then the usually peaceful town is rocked by the beachside discovery of the brutally-murdered body of nineteen-year-old Brady Carson. Kempton and his hastily-organised team of investigators begins to search for Carson’s murderer. Then there’s another brutal murder. And another. It’s soon clear that someone is preying on the town and the team has to work frantically to find out who the killer is. In the end, we find that the murderer has a very personal reason for targeting Carmel – and Kempton.
Nicola Upson’s Angel With Two Faces is also an example of the dangers of the coast. Upson’s sleuth, author Josephine Tey, has been invited by Inspector Archie Penrose to spend a holiday in Cornwall. It turns out to be a far from peaceful visit, though. First, an estate worker dies in what looks like a tragic riding accident. Then, a local boy disappears. Tey and Penrose investigate these eerie events and their possible connection with a local legend about a lake that claims a victim every seven years. I confess that I haven’t read this one (yet), but it was too good an example not to include :-).
As you can see, coastal holidays can be exciting, interesting and certainly a diversion from everyday life. So if you’re thinking about where you’d like to go on your next trip, go ahead, catch a wave. Or perhaps not ;-).
NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beach Boys’ Catch a Wave.