PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE: 
   A BRANDON BLAKE MYSTERY
   By Gerry Boyle
   Down East Books, 2011
   272 pages, $24.95
   ISBN 978-0-89272-957-9
 
Maine mystery writer Gerry Boyle already has as a successful string of popular crime novels featuring newspaper reporter Jack McMorrow, and now he offers the second book in a new mystery series about a young rookie Portland police officer.

PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE follows PORT CITY SHAKEDOWN (Down East Books, 2009), with rookie cop Brandon Blake just six weeks on the job and already up to his handcuffs in murder, mayhem and trouble with his bosses.

Boyle is a journalist and author, and editor of the Colby College magazine. The new cop mystery series is a departure from the McMorrow novels — much more fast-paced — loaded with police street action and investigative techniques — revealing just how frenetic, stressful and emotional a police officer’s day (or night) can be.

This is a multi-plot story that finds Blake and his training officer Kat (a gay female officer who is a savvy, street-wise police veteran) trying desperately to find a missing child, handle a connected suicide and murder and break up drunken brawls in the Old Port. At the same time, they’re investigating a suspicious restaurant owner, and unraveling a year-old Canadian murder that might tie up a lot of loose ends in Portland.

All of these subplots are linked in some way, but Blake and Kat just can’t quite connect the dots. Blake’s brash, arrogant attitude and unauthorized off-duty investigation don’t help much, especially when Kat and the department brass lean on him to back off.

Add a whining, high-maintenance girlfriend, a couple of new friends who are anything but friendly and a long list of low-lifes, drunks, crackheads, ex-cons, renegade bikers, African and Asian gangbangers, a cop who is both a coward and a liar, and unscrupulous media wonks, and Boyle has a hit mystery with a satisfying surprise ending.
 
  DRIFTWOOD FROM POPHAM SANDS
   By Florence R. Oliver
   Just Write Books, 2011
   155 pages, $19.95
   ISBN 978-1-934949-40-5
 
Nostalgia is a popular subject for many Maine writers today, as people reminisce about the good old days when life was seemingly simpler and more pleasant.

Capturing that history is important, too, as evidenced by Florence Oliver’s insightful memoir and history of the Popham Beach area at the mouth of the Kennebec River, just south of Bath. Oliver (1910-1987) was born in Bath and lived all her adult life at Popham. She began writing a history of

Popham as a memoir years ago, with the project finally being finished by her daughters, Margaret Oliver Ladue and Edith Oliver.

The result of their effort is DRIFTWOOD FROM POPHAM SANDS, a charming memoir and capsule history of a little known area of the Maine coast. Popham was the site of the Popham Colony in 1607, amd it enjoyed a rich, small village heritage for more than 300 years.

As Oliver so colorfully points out, Popham had its share of characters, industries, calamities and social activities in the 18th-20th centuries, from farming and shipwrecks to fortifications and resort hotels.

She tells funny stories about her Uncle Lyme and Uncle George, codgers who had “weatherproof constitutions,” as well as about the soldiers who built and garrisoned Fort Popham and Fort Baldwin (both still present as park sites today).

Oliver’s other stories include the deadly 1849 shipwreck of the “Hanover,” about the village’s first ice cream parlor in 1902, the operation of the U.S. Life Saving Station on the beach and about the Seguin Island Lighthouse just offshore.

Learn, too, why her two uncles did not talk to each other (the reason is not what you might think), what happened when a friend became a Democrat, and how the general store sold a tasty product affectionately called “rat bait.”

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

 


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