Author: Josh Lanyon
Griffin Hadley is a journalist from a small town beat writing the story of one of the country’s most famous unsolved kidnappings. Hand-selected seemingly at random by the patriarch of of the victimized family, Hadley finds himself as a central character in his own story as the plot develops. Published in 2014, Josh Lanyon’s Stranger on the Store is a who-done-it set in a world reminiscent of HBO’s Succession with a cast of characters as likable as the Roy family.
The novel opens twenty years after the kidnapping of Brian Arlington, where Hadley has just arrived at the Arlington family estate to begin work on his book about the case with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome in tow. Although a man named Odell Johnson has already been convicted of Brian’s kidnapping and murder, the patriarch of the Arlington clan, Jarrett, has not given up hope that Brian may still be alive and has seemingly selected Hadley from obscurity to write an exclusive insider account of one of the country’s most famous cases.
We are introduced to Arlington’s adult children as Hadley begins his work, almost all of whom are portrayed as stereotypically aloof trust fund babies bent of interfering with Hadley’s work supposedly in the name of keeping old wounds closed and avoiding family scandal. In truth, all the children were present the night Brian Arlington disappeared, making them all potential suspects with millions of dollars’ worth of inheritance as motive.
The Arlington children aren’t the only individuals trying to hamper Hadley’s investigation. We are introduced early on to the handsome and bespoke Pierce Mather, the family’s overly protective lawyer. As Hadley’s investigation drags on with little progress, the tension between he and Pierce escalates until a chance social encounter leads to the two in bed together. The enemies-to-lovers trope heats up even more when Hadley’s safety is threatened and Pierce begins to develop deeper feelings for him. The relationship between the characters adds some spice to the otherwise slow-moving plot and is a welcome distraction from the mystery at hand.
As Hadley’s research continues, he seems no closer to cracking the case and solving the mystery of Brian’s disappearance than when he started. Then the mystery seemingly solves itself.
In the end, all of the reader’s questions are answered in a final dramatic reveal intended to be a surprise, but only for readers who weren’t paying attention as the novel progressed. Otherwise, the novel’s end serves merely as confirmation for what was already suspected. Despite the somewhat predictable ending, Stranger on the Shore was a pleasant, well-written, and quick read filled with suspense and characters you love to hate.