WELL-OFFED IN VERMONT: 
A PRET’ NEAR PERFECT MYSTERY

By Amy Patricia Meade
Midnight Ink, 2011
236 pages, $14.95
ISBN 978-0-7387-2590-1
 
If you think your water tastes funny now, just wait until you find a dead body in your well.  And that’s just what Stella and Nick Buckley discover when they move into their new home in Teignmouth, Vt.

WELL-OFFED IN VERMONT is Amy Meade’s debut mystery in a new crime series featuring a couple of Manhatten flatlanders who move from the Big Apple to a bucolic small New England town expecting a much different welcome than the one they got. Meade has already penned the successful Marjorie McClelland mystery series set in the 1930s.

This is a “cozy” mystery, so noted for the formula off-scene violence and absence of graphic gore. However, this “cozy” mystery has several delightful features that most others lack — it is very funny and tastefully sexy.  And Meade spins a solid mystery yarn, too.

Stella and Nick are married, in their 30s and looking for a quiet, rural lifestyle. What they get is murder and a town full of people who are only too glad the victim caught three bullets in the chest and was dropped into their well.  And folks don’t like these two flatlanders sticking their noses in their business.
The Buckleys are not satisfied with the speed or direction of the police investigation — they are impatient because they can’t actually move in until the cops are done with the crime scene — so they begin asking questions themselves, and what they find isn’t pretty or reassuring. There are a lot of motives and even more suspects, and nobody seems to care if the killer is ever caught. Perhaps most unnerving is the fact that the local sheriff has one of the most powerful motives for murder and doesn’t seem too eager to solve the crime.

Welcome to Teignmouth, but don’t drink the water.

 

1812:  THE NAVY’S WAR
By George C. Daughan
Basic Books, 2011
491 pages, $32.50
ISBN 978-0-465-02046-1
 
In 1812, the fledgling democracy of the new United States was just 29 years old. Militarily weak and fractured by regional political bickering, the United States was totally unprepared to confront a resurgent British empire, but President James Madison declared war on Great Britain anyway.

1812: THE NAVY’S WAR is Portland naval historian George Daughan’s excellent naval history of America’s most misunderstood war; it was the United States’ “second war of independence.” Daughan is the award-winning author of IF BY SEA (Basic Books, 2008), a comprehensive history of America’s navy from the American Revolution to 1812.

Here Daughan uses his considerable research and writing skills to present a vivid and exciting history of how a few stout warships, bold captains and brave crews were the nation’s primary offense and defense facing the world’s largest navy, and a powerful and arrogant Great Britain that wanted to destroy its only maritime rival and reestablish British dominance in North America.

Daughan deftly describes the complex political, diplomatic and economic causes of the war, as well as Britain’s unified strategic goals and the United States’ surprisingly confused and naive lack of cogent plans, strategic thought and needed resources.

Best, however, are Daughan’s dramatic explanations of how the tiny American navy’s victories at sea offset the army’s dismal performance on land in a war that raged from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, across the Atlantic and into the Pacific Ocean.

He tells of famous single-ship battles, both defeats and victories, how commerce-raiding privateers affected the war’s outcome, how American naval triumphs on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain thwarted a British invasion from Canada, and how American naval audacity and sacrifice on the Mississippi River was critical to Andrew Jackson’s crushing defeat of the British army in the bloody battle at New Orleans.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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