By Douglas Kennedy
Atria Books, 2013
309 pages, $26.99
ISBN 978-1-4516-6633-5
One of the greatest deceits in a marriage occurs when a husband and wife say they love each other and both know it isn’t true. With stunning depth and painful clarity, award-winning novelist Douglas Kennedy explores the fragile and too often hopeless nature of marriage in his 11th novel, “Five Days,” “about the nature of personal connection — and how, if it is absent from our lives, it becomes a longing that only serves to underscore all the sadness that haunts an unhappy marriage.”

There is no joy in this story, but Kennedy’s sensitive and vivid narrative is so gripping that the reader cannot help but feel the angst, anger, guilt, uncertainty and false hope as husbands and wives realize they are “lost together.”

Laura is a 41-year-old medical radiologist in a small Maine hospital near Damariscotta. Married to Dan for 20 years, she is supremely unhappy with her life and the limitations she put on herself. Richard is from Bath, a 55-year-old insurance salesman, gray and dull, also in a loveless marriage. They meet in a chance encounter at a Boston hotel — she is there to attend a medical conference, he’s there for sales calls.

This random meeting results in flirtation and much more as each reveals to the other that they’ve spent years lying to themselves, falsifying their true feelings, longing for a loving happiness they’ll never have. This is emotionally explosive stuff, especially when they both become giddy with “happily ever after” future plans together.

However, the predictably devastating meltdown will reveal one character to be an artless coward and the other to become resolute and suddenly decisive. Still, nobody will be happy in this well-crafted but sad and depressing tale. And beware, a lot of people will see themselves in these pages.

By Mark Nickerson
North Country Press, 2013
207 pages, $15.95
ISBN 978-0-945980-70-4
When Maine State Trooper Mark Nickerson put on his uniform and climbed into his police cruiser every day to begin his patrol, he never knew what might happen during one 10-hour shift.

Fortunately, during his 28-year career (1977-2005) as a state trooper, Nickerson kept his notes and logs and those pages tell some remarkable stories. “Blue Lights in the Night” is a collection of 40 law enforcement stories, most previously published as columns in the old Belfast “Citizen” newspaper.

These are all stories of events and investigations that Nickerson experienced during his career — some funny and some sad — all fascinating for their unvarnished portrayal of a dedicated lawman in rural Maine. Do not expect great literature (too much repetition and corny phrasing), but do expect to learn about the life of a Maine State Trooper.

Nickerson spent his entire career as a patrol trooper, mostly operating in central Maine where he racked up an impressive number of drunk driving arrests (1363), investigated crimes and accidents, settled domestic disputes and captured violent prison escapees.

Several stories are about his rookie year, making dumb mistakes and learning from veteran troopers (never leave your handcuffs in the car). Another story tells the delightful tale of a state trooper K-9 unit and how the dog obtained a confession from a criminal.

The funniest story describes an annual Halloween prank in Unity with a most suitable ending. The saddest tale, however, tells of Nickerson’s anguish having to make death notifications to the families of two teenagers killed in a drunken-driving accident.

Learn how his police cruiser once made an arrest all by itself, how a tree was an effective crime fighter and why it’s always a good idea to wave at a state trooper with all your fingers.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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