LED ASTRAY: A JOE BURGESS MYSTERY

Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess, of the Portland Police Department, has a well-deserved reputation as a mean cop. He gets results no matter what, and even punched out a senior officer who gave him some lip. Crooks are scared of Joe, and so are other cops. He’s the perfect lead investigator when a rookie police officer is shot and killed.

“Led Astray” is award-winning Maine author Kate Flora’s fifth mystery featuring Joe Burgess, and this one is a taut, white-knuckle thriller, a gritty mystery set in Portland. Flora also writes the popular “Thea Kozak Mystery Series.”

When Joe responds to a “shots fired!” dispatcher call, he walks into the bloody aftermath of a well-staged ambush, finding one officer and a civilian dead, and two other cops badly wounded. The sniper is still out there, taking one more shot before disappearing.

Every police officer in the city is now on high alert, and Joe and his team don’t have much time to find the killer. Odd things, however, obstruct the investigation: the dead civilian cannot be identified; why was Joe’s lieutenant (and best friend) out there without back-up?; who pulled the guards off the wounded officers’ hospital rooms?; and the ultimate indignity for Joe — who just shot him?

If Joe was mean before on a normal day, imagine his anger, impatience and deadly focus now. He is tired, hungry, in pain and mad, and he nearly explodes when witnesses lie to him — especially one eager witness who deliberately sends him off on a wild goose chase. Then there is the worthless, obstructive police captain whose meddling and media grandstanding jeopardizes everything. (Joe really hates this guy.)

Too late, Joe finally realizes there is more than one killer out there in this cleverly complex puzzle of murder and revenge.

OLD TOWN

Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series celebrates the unique local histories of American towns and cities. “Old Town,” by Peter Stowell, is the latest book about a special Maine town.

Stowell is a local historian with Old Town roots. Here, he tells the story of Old Town, located on the Penobscot River north of Orono. Stowell focuses on Old Town’s 19th- and early 20th-century history; paying scant attention to its early Indian and colonial periods.

This is mostly a photographic history of the town, with loads of black and white photographs supplemented by detailed captions. The Old Town area was home to Penobscot Indians first, then French Jesuit missionaries in 1688, followed by English settlers in 1774.

As Stowell relates, Old Town was originally part of Orono, but broke away and established its own township in 1840. The town saw an economic boom in the 1800s with rapid growth of logging, sawmills, pulp and paper mills, and woolen mills attracting crowds of French-Canadian and Irish immigrants seeking jobs.

He goes on to tell of the rise of famous businesses like the Old Town Canoe Company (still in business today) and the Bickmore Gall Cure Company, which manufactured a medicinal salve to treat harness abrasions on workhorses. Bickmore’s “gall cure” was so successful that the company expanded into the manufacture of fly ointment, toothpaste, shaving cream and some curious products like “mortician’s powder” and “disappearing cream.”

His chapter on Old Town people includes distinguished folks like teachers, businessmen, politicians, doctors, dentists, students, workingmen, waitresses, entertainers, Civil War heroes and Florence Nicolar Shay, a tireless advocate for Indian rights. Surprisingly, he doesn’t mention writer Tabitha King or Mary Ellen St. John, Miss Maine of 1954.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.