REESE’S LEAP: AN ISLAND MYSTERY

By Darcy Scott

Turtle Pond Press, 2013

218 pages, $14.95

ISBN 978-1-938883-34-7

Gil Hodges, shameless boozer and world-class Lothario, thinks being stranded on a Maine island with five women is a pretty sweet deal, until he discovers they are all liars and at least one might be a killer. And worse, Gil’s goofy Great Lebowski charm isn’t working.

“Reese’s Leap” is Maine author Darcy Scott’s second excellent mystery in her trilogy of island mysteries, following last year’s “Matinicus.” Scott has clearly mastered her craft, creating suspenseful and exciting stories featuring credible characters flawed by greed, jealousy, fear, revenge, spite and desperation, adding just enough snappy dialogue, action and tension to keep the pages turning. And this mystery is even better than the first one, raising already high expectations for the upcoming third volume in the series, “Ragged Island.”

Gil and his pal, Duggan, make an unannounced and unexpected visit to Mistake Island, dropping in on Duggan’s girlfriend and her four friends who spend one week a year on the island for an all-female vacation they call Women Week. The ladies aren’t too happy to see any men, but sudden bad weather forces them all to get along (barely) until the fog clears.

Gil quickly notices these women are only pretending to be close friends, that something sinister simmers under the surface of their phony camaraderie. Then, a malevolent stranger shows up on the island and the whole dynamic among the women changes. They are scared to death of the stranger — and for good reason.

The stranger’s threats indicate a motive for murder, but Gil is slow to catch on that there might be much more to the stranger’s story and that the five women are up to their pretty necks in serious trouble and deadly deceit.

This island vacation is not going to end well for a lot of people.

 

A FLATLANDER’S GUIDE TO MAINE

By Mark Scott Ricketts

Islandport Press, 2013

98 pages, $16.95

ISBN 978-1-934031-49-0

Maine may have top-drawer humorists like John McDonald and Tim Sample, but now we can add cartoonist and satirist Mark Ricketts to that august list.

Ricketts lives in Bangor and is an admitted flatlander — from Chicago of all places — and he immediately recognized the need for a book to help other flatlanders understand what it’s really like to live in Maine. Being an accomplished cartoonist with a good idea and a wry sense of humor, he produced “A Flatlander’s Guide to Maine,” a must-have book for gullible folks who just might believe that a “williwaw” is that feeling you get after a meal of bad clams and warm beer.

This is a clever cartoonist’s silly view of all things Maine, from its history, culture and cuisine to flora, fauna, legends and shopping. Nothing is sacred to Ricketts — he wisely skewers everything and everyone equally.

The aptitude test (for flatlander admission into Maine) asks questions like: What is the state condiment? And, true or false, the Maine state slogan is “Maine is for Mainers: Everybody else get out!” He explains why Maine road signs are deliberately obscure and confusing (a state conspiracy, he claims), why the town of Lazy Gut Island refused to obey a new state law and what really started the great fire of 1911 (hint: bean supper).

Other hilarious flatlander anecdotes tell who was crowned Caribou’s first (and only) Duct Tape Queen, describes Maine’s “Most Notorious Bugs,” the curious life of the “Hand-Drawn Turkey” and why bears shouldn’t read books or even be allowed in the town library.

Best, however, are the crusty stories of Earl Hornswaggle — the oldest and crabbiest man in Maine — and the goofy nature tales of Dickie Todd, a hapless park ranger who lives with a beaver named Orson. Great fun!

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.