AIRTIGHT
By David Rosenfelt
Minotaur, 2013
304 pages, $24.99
ISBN 978-1-2500-2476-3
 
When New Jersey State Police Lieutenant Luke Somers confronts an armed murder suspect, a split-second decision and three fatal gunshots condemn his brother to a slow, agonizing death, and himself to seven days of guilt and desperate action.
“Airtight” is Damariscotta Lake author David Rosenfelt’s 15th mystery, following his excellent “Heart of a Killer” (Minotaur, 2012). As with all his novels, this is a fast-paced mystery loaded with action, suspense, snappy dialogue and clever plot twists.
After Somers kills the murder suspect, he is applauded as a hero for solving the murder of a judge so quickly. Unfortunately, Somers may have killed the wrong man. The murder suspect’s brother — Chris Gallagher, a U.S. Marine and capable killer himself — kidnaps Somers’ brother in revenge, giving the cop just seven days to prove his dead brother was actually innocent of the judge’s murder.
However, the evidence against Gallagher’s brother is overwhelmingly conclusive, forcing Lieutenant Somers to “investigate a murder and pretend it’s not already solved.” And if he cannot prove the innocence of the man he killed, his own brother will die.
In a seemingly hopeless situation, Somers finally decides he will have to “cross the line” and fabricate evidence to frame someone to convince Gallagher to release his brother. But as he digs into the judge’s and suspect’s backgrounds, he uncovers some alarming inconsistencies, revealing a widespread conspiracy and exposing himself to ambush and attempted murder. Nervous people begin to take desperate measures to ensure he fails. And the Marine watches every move.
 Add corrupt politicians, Las Vegas hit men with some frightening skills, a ruthless but cowardly businessman, a deadly butler who didn’t do it, a crooked court clerk, bribery and judicial malfeasance, and Rosenfelt has another exciting mystery hit.
 

MAINE MOTHERS WHO MURDERED: 1875-1925 DOING TIME IN STATE PRISON

By Annette Vance Dorey
Van Horn Vintage Press, 2012
309 pages, $28.50
ISBN 978-0-9853964-0-4
 
The nature of murder and murderers, crime and punishment, is as fascinating for Mainers today as it was 100 years ago. Back then, the public’s macabre interest and the lurid sensationalism of the press often overlooked the gritty and unattractive reality of murder and prison.
The Hollywood hype of today’s crime dramas is glaringly exposed in Annette Dorey’s grim true-crime history, “Maine Mothers Who Murdered.”
Dorey is a Lewiston author, historian and educator, who has written about children’s health, baby contests and Maine’s early female doctors. Here, she tackles the thorny and uncomfortable subjects of mothers who kill their children, their courtroom trials and convictions, their harsh prison sentences and the stigma of infanticide in a male-dominated criminal justice system.
This is heady stuff, indeed. There is no joy in these pages, but there is a bright light of understanding for, as Dorey says, “ We cannot change the past, but we can acknowledge it.”
She presents numerous Maine murder cases of infanticide, providing background and descriptions of investigations, arrests, trials, convictions and sentencing, revealing much about society during those 50 years — especially how women were treated. Dorey does not offer excuses for mothers killing their children, but she does explain why some women took such desperate actions.
Best, however, are Dorey’s chapters on Maine’s criminal justice system and the brutal prison conditions women faced at the state prison. She discusses prison living conditions and diet, capital punishment, pardons, good conduct, prison discipline and penalties, the costs of confinement, prison staffing, management and the enlightened effort of prison reform.
Learn why the Maine State Prison charged visitors a fee, about the unusual A-B-C Laws, why most child killers confessed and why compulsory labor paid prison inmates just two cents a day.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.   

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