Some time ago, after the first couple of books in Sarah Graves's series about Jacobia Tiptree, someone (the publisher?) decided to subtitle them "Home...moreSome time ago, after the first couple of books in Sarah Graves's series about Jacobia Tiptree, someone (the publisher?) decided to subtitle them "Home Repair is Homicide." Although each chapter is headed with a home-repair tip and Jake's adventures in renovating her Eastport, Maine house often provide comic relief, you needn't fear that the home-repair hook detracts from the plot. These are simply good amateur-sleuth mysteries.
In recent books, Sarah Graves has been flirting a bit with the supernatural. The supernatural elements seem to flow organically from the story, and there is enough doubt about them that I'd say even people who dislike this element shouldn't be turned off. In The Book of Old Houses, a college professor comes to Eastport hoping to find the murderer of an old friend. The friend, an antiquarian book expert, had been examining an odd old book that Jacobia's father unearthed in her cellar in a previous novel. Now the book has disappeared. Several red herrings and a few more murders later, Jake and the professor unmask the surprise culprit.
Besides the expert plotting, my favorite thing about Graves's books is her depiction of down-East Maine and its people, neither idealized nor condescending (and how rare that is!) Although she's "from away," she does a great job with her adopted town as a setting and her characters ring true. Definitely recommended. (less)
One of the best books I read in 2007. A small-town Congregational minister in 1950s Maine deals with the death of his wife, who was not really a very...moreOne of the best books I read in 2007. A small-town Congregational minister in 1950s Maine deals with the death of his wife, who was not really a very good wife for a small-town minister, with his two daughters, and with his own crisis of faith. Inspiring without being sappy.(less)
First in a series featuring amateur sleuth Thea Kozak,a private school consultant who keeps getting involved in murder. In this one, it's her adopted...moreFirst in a series featuring amateur sleuth Thea Kozak,a private school consultant who keeps getting involved in murder. In this one, it's her adopted sister who has been murdered, and she goes to Maine to investigate.(less)
Enjoyable first in a planned series, featuring a Scottish dancer with knee problems who returns to her hometown in the western mountains of Maine to h...moreEnjoyable first in a planned series, featuring a Scottish dancer with knee problems who returns to her hometown in the western mountains of Maine to help her aunt with a Scottish goods shop. Great local color and a nice plot with some romance thrown in.(less)
Kate Braestrup has written a fine memoir of her path to becoming the Chaplain of the Maine State Warden Service (the game wardens). A Unitarian Univer...moreKate Braestrup has written a fine memoir of her path to becoming the Chaplain of the Maine State Warden Service (the game wardens). A Unitarian Universalist, Braestrup went to seminary after her Maine State Trooper husband was killed in a car crash. At first she said she was fulfilling his dream because he could not, but she soon realized that she had found her calling. With earthy humor and deep empathy in equal portions, Braestrup tells what it's like to be on the scene at search and rescue operations, both when the rescue is successful and when it isn't. She also shows a deep love and respect for her brothers and sisters in law enforcement. When this book came out, of course it was widely publicized here in Maine, but it's not just a "Maine book," a "clergy" book, or a "widow's" book. It's a human book, and almost anyone would be better off for reading it.(less)
Faith Fairchild, whose idea of a summer vacation is a trip to the Hamptons, isn't sure she likes the idea of rusticating on an island in Penobscot Bay...moreFaith Fairchild, whose idea of a summer vacation is a trip to the Hamptons, isn't sure she likes the idea of rusticating on an island in Penobscot Bay. But there are compensations, until she discovers the body of a local potter in a tidepool. Multiple complications ensue as she and her friend Pix Miller attempt to decipher a treasure map in the form of a quilt, and other suspicious and horrible events occur. Once again, as in other Page mysteries, we see the toxic effects of murder on a community. Another very good book in this series.(less)
The second in Kaitlyn Dunnett's Liss MacCrimmon series was very enjoyable, even better than the first. Liss, formerly a professional Scottish dancer,...moreThe second in Kaitlyn Dunnett's Liss MacCrimmon series was very enjoyable, even better than the first. Liss, formerly a professional Scottish dancer, has come home to Moosetookalook, a small town in Maine's western mountains, to help run her aunt's Scottish goods store after a knee injury ended her dance career. She's arranged for her old company to give a performance in the nearby college town and is looking forward to a reunion. But during the reception, the group's manager dies suddenly. When the death proves to be murder, all the troupe members are suspect. The handsome State trooper investigating asks Liss for help, and she believes that the best way to help her friends is to find the real murderer.
Likable characters, authentic setting, and an ingenious plot made this an entertaining, quick read. Dunnett has devised the best method for escaping a kidnapper that I've ever come across. I hope we'll hear a lot more about Liss MacCrimmon and her friends in Moosetookalook, Maine.(less)
Having been born in Maine, lived in exile reading about Maine for many years, and moved back here a few years ago, I thought I'd have some trouble fin...moreHaving been born in Maine, lived in exile reading about Maine for many years, and moved back here a few years ago, I thought I'd have some trouble finding a Maine mystery by an author I hadn't read before. But www.stopyourekillingme.com's Location Index didn't fail me, giving me several choices available at my local library. I chose this one. It appears that Mr. Crossman has written no adult books since 1999, which is too bad. I enjoyed this one enough that I will seek out his first Winston Crisp mystery and his standalone.
Winston Crisp is a retired National Security Agency agent, well into his eighties when the story takes place, in 1970. The setting, nearly 30 years before publication and presumably writing of the book, is necessary for the plot, which deals with a present-day murder with ties to World Wars I and II and the time between them. It also means that there are no cell phones, emails or Internet to deal with -- all the research in the story is done in library archives or by asking long-time island residents for their memories.
The plot of The Dead of Winter is rather convoluted, and the surprise appearance of a second culprit at the end could be faulted. But what I really loved about the book were the setting and characters. The descriptions of the island in Penobscot Bay, socked in by a winter storm, cooled me off in the midst of an August heat wave. The dialogue, which was true-to-life without being overdone, was full of salty expressions and metaphors, which offered both authentic local color and comic relief to a rather grim storyline. I'd recommend this, if you can get hold of a copy.(less)
Set in Eastport, Maine, this is the latest (at the time) in a series about a former financial wizard who restores an old house and solves crimes in a...moreSet in Eastport, Maine, this is the latest (at the time) in a series about a former financial wizard who restores an old house and solves crimes in a struggling small town Down East. Always enjoyable with good characters, plots and setting.(less)
I'm not being totally fair in giving this book only three stars. It certainly held my interest, and the change from Graves' previous practice of telli...moreI'm not being totally fair in giving this book only three stars. It certainly held my interest, and the change from Graves' previous practice of telling the story in the first person, which she experimented with in the last book, was refreshing. A Face at the Window was more of a thriller than a whodunnit, another departure for Graves. But...(if you are really allergic to any possibility of a spoiler, stop here!)
I had two problems with the story, one minor and one (for me) major. The minor one was the usual thing which appears in most private eye tales and some other types -- where the protagonist (in this case two protagonists) take an incredible amount of physical punishment and keep going. I believe in adrenalin and I've read some amazing true survival stories, but still.
The major problem I had with the book was that Graves makes one of the perpetrators a fairly sympathetic character and I fully expected that he would find redemption at the end of the book, or at least be on his way. This does not happen; and it almost seems as if the author (or her editor?) changed direction in mid-book to make it into a more conventional good guys-bad guys story where bad guys never change. Although I'd say I normally read mysteries for catharsis and the restoration of order to the world, and "literary" fiction for hope and redemption, I really thought at the beginning of the book that this would be a mixture of the two. That's why it disappointed me.(less)
I listened to Maine rather than read it because there were over 300 holds on 34 copies in our ILL system, but I just happened to see the audiobook on...moreI listened to Maine rather than read it because there were over 300 holds on 34 copies in our ILL system, but I just happened to see the audiobook on the shelf! Lucky for me. I found myself keeping the earphones in for quite a while after the dogwalk ended just to see what those women would do and say next.
The book focuses on four women of a prosperous Irish Catholic family (grandmother Alice, her daughter Kathleen, Kathleen's daughter Maggie, and Alice's daughter-in-law Anne Marie) during a summer at their Maine beach house when everything is changing. The tale is told in third person, but in clusters of chapters of each of the four women's viewpoints -- similar to Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. Just when you think you have things figured out, a different character tells her side of the story. The family is full of secrets -- some will get told, some not. There is resolution and some redemption by the end, but not as "happy ending" as Sullivan's first book, Commencement. The themes of family, the Catholic Church and its effect on its adherents, and the changing lives of women in this past century run through the book.
I have a few little quibbles -- what was this about grizzly bear cubs raiding the dumpsters in Southern Maine? I can only think that the parents told their children that raccoons were grizzly bears and the poor little suburban Mass. kids believed them. Also, Sullivan uses the device of the "unspoken thought" quite a bit -- someone will be talking to another person but thinking something else not as "appropriate." The audiobook reader, Anne Marie Lee, did an excellent job overall but it sometimes took a few minutes for me to realize that someone did not in fact say something out loud. In fairness though, that's a hard nuance to vocalize.
I wouldn't call this light beach reading, which seems to be how the publishers marketed it. But I certainly found it worth reading.(less)
Some months ago I won a copy of Paul Doiron's second novel, Trespasser in a drawing. I put it on the shelf, though, because I like to start a series a...moreSome months ago I won a copy of Paul Doiron's second novel, Trespasser in a drawing. I put it on the shelf, though, because I like to start a series at the beginning. Now I'm looking forward to reading it, since I received Doiron's first novel, The Poacher's Son for Christmas.
The thought immediately struck me as I began reading that the title paralleled that of Margaret Maron's first Judge Knott novel, The Bootlegger's Daughter, in which a North Carolina bootlegger's daughter becomes a judge. Mike Bowditch, "The Poacher's Son," has chosen to be a game warden but the parallels end there. Doiron's book is much darker and the only similarities between his book and Maron's are the strong feel for place, the excellent writing, and the Edgar nominations (she won, he didn't.)
Doiron introduces us to Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch and a couple of higher-ups, along with a retired warden and pilot, Charley Stevens. We meet Bowditch at a time when he has no close relationships; his girlfriend of several years has left him, he hasn't spoken with his father in two years and rarely sees his mother and stepfather. He's hoping to persuade himself that this lonely life is what he really wanted all along. Then he becomes embroiled in a double homicide where the main suspect is his father. Doiron takes the reader through many twists and turns of plot before the emotional and surprising conclusion. Along the way, readers will see a different Maine than the lighthouse and lobster coastal stereotype -- and it will be presented warts and all. As Doiron edits Down East: The Magazine of Maine (where everything is lovely), I have to admire even more the honesty with which he portrays the Maine woods and its people.
The character of Mike Bowditch is still being formed -- he's only 24 in this first book, and it's easy to forget how very young a 24-year-old man can be. There was one episode where I at first thought, "This guy is too stupid to live," but as I considered it further, I realized it was just the sort of thing this character would do. I look forward to watching Bowditch's character and career develop over many more books to come. Highly recommended.(less)
I've finally done it -- I've read a Stephen King book all the way through. A time travel story can always draw me in, and this one had the novelty of...moreI've finally done it -- I've read a Stephen King book all the way through. A time travel story can always draw me in, and this one had the novelty of having the traveler back in time go to a time I lived through. Plus, the story begins in Lisbon Falls, Maine -- a neighboring town I've been visiting and passing through all my life. By now you can probably figure out the basic plot. Jake, a high school English teacher, is shown a time-portal by his dying friend Al and entrusted with a mission to prevent JFK's assassination. The portal always takes him to the same day in 1958; he makes a couple of practice trips, preventing other deaths, before he settles down to the business at hand. Time travel, like other fantasy, must have rules; the rule Jake is told from the outset is that each trip back resets history to the way it was before he meddled. It's difficult to say much more about the plot without spoliers. The book has most of the traits that have kept me from ever finishing one of King's books in the past. It's wordy, padded with brand names, and it's evident that no one bothers to edit of fact check King's books. (One scene that almost had me fling the book across the room: Jake is trying to locate a family in a strange town, but he only knows the last name. He goes to the library, in 1958, and asks to see the 1950 census. The librarian, instead of laughing at him, sends him to the town hall. Given that King was probably writing this book during or shortly after the 2010 census, one would think he would have known that census results are kept under wraps for 72 years.) Still, the book held my interest, although I found the ending disappointing. I enjoyed the time travel and suspense, but even more I liked that I felt King used this book as an exercise in personal time travel. Jake, the protagonist, is a high school English teacher who directs the school plays and lives in a small Maine town. He has ambitions to be a writer. In other words, his life (minus the time travel) could easily have been Stephen King's life if a few things had gone differently. Despite its flaws, this was a hard book to put down, and I'd recommend it especially to people who like time travel stories.(less)
Classic story of summer in Maine, this is one of the books I frequently give as a baby gift. I never get tired of the story or McCloskey's wonderful p...moreClassic story of summer in Maine, this is one of the books I frequently give as a baby gift. I never get tired of the story or McCloskey's wonderful pictures.(less)