By John Ford Sr.
Islandport Press, 2012
218 pages, $16.95
ISBN 978-1-934031-94-0
Maine game wardens are the state’s nature cops, enforcing the fish and wildlife regulations. They are also searchers, rescuers and detectives, and they can be hard-nosed or lenient, funny or deadly serious.  Above all, they must be patient.

All of these things are vividly portrayed in John Ford’s carefully crafted memoir of his 20-year career as a game warden in Waldo County. He is retired now, living in Brooks.

SUDDENLY THE CIDER DIDN’T TASTE SO GOOD is a collection of 35 short vignettes of his life as a game warden, captured in a daily diary Ford kept during his career. He is a talented writer and storyteller, selecting a colorful variety of true tales, humorous and poignant, tragic and suspenseful.
Many of these stories are from his early rookie years as a game warden, candidly revealing a young man’s excitement, worries and mistakes. He admits he made many rookie mistakes — like stepping out of a float plane and falling into a pond, catching himself in his own trap and a hilarious and messy mishap with a stick of dynamite.

He has chased armed escaped convicts, uttered the words no law enforcement officer ever wants to say or hear (“Shots fired!”), matched wits with wily poachers, night-hunters and some unsavory backwoods folks, and been caught in some embarrassing situations.

Read how he used a chainsaw to make an arrest, how a radar detector squeezed a confession out of a suspect, how he liked to scare the daylights out of poachers, how he tenderly raised abandoned baby owlets, deer and fox in his house, and discover why the cider didn’t taste so good.
This is a delightful memoir and serves as an honest portrayal and deserving testimonial to the dedicated service of Maine’s game wardens.

By B.B. Haywood
Berkley Prime Crime, 2012
322 pages, $7.99
ISBN 978-0-425-24617-7
Fictional Cape Willington seems like an idyllic Maine small town, until one considers the high murder rate.  And the stats just added one more curious killing.

TOWN IN A WILD MOOSE CHASE is the third book in the mystery series by B.B. Haywood (the pseudonym of Beth and Robert Feeman, of Cape Elizabeth), following TOWN IN A BLUEBERRY JAM (2010) and TOWN IN A LOBSTER STEW (2011).

However, unlike the first two books, this is an uneven mystery with a muddle of plotlines and the quirky appearance of a love-struck mystical white moose which adds cuteness, but little else.  Two major plotlines compete here — one really is the murder, the other is something quite different and confusing, especially if someone has not read the previous two books.

Candy Holliday, part-time blueberry farmer, newspaper stringer and amateur detective, is reluctantly dragged into a murder investigation when the local hermit staggers into her field and tells her he’s found a dead body in the woods.  However, when the police arrive, the hermit is gone, nobody can find the body and Candy looks like an idiot.

The murder might be connected to the annual Winter Moose Fest, complete with lavish ice-carving competitions marked by big egos, jealousies and professional rivalries of the top ice sculptors.  Then, add an arrogant, pompous out-of-town gentleman with a wildly unlikely proposal and some odd behavior, and Candy finds herself being cleverly manipulated.

Unfortunately, the moose antics, the Psychic Sisters, two very funny scenes involving other people’s dry cleaning, and smart descriptions of how ice carving is really done cannot make up for the lack of suspense and clarity. The unsubtle prelude to the obvious sequel and the too-cute recipes using moose mincemeat don’t help much.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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