THE BATTLE FOR THE FOURTEENTH

COLONY: AMERICA’S WAR OF

LIBERATION IN CANADA, 1775-1776

By Mark R. Anderson

University Press of New England, 2013

456 pages, $35

ISBN 978-1-61168-497-1

 

Most Mainers know that Maine played a pivotal role in the American invasion of Canada in 1775-1776 during the American Revolution, but few know the whole story of that disastrous military expedition or how and why the Americans thought it could possibly succeed.

“The Battle For The Fourteenth Colony” is historian Mark Anderson’s well-researched and smartly presented history of that failed campaign, revealing a perfect historical example of an overly ambitious idea that was poorly planned and badly executed. This is Anderson’s first book and he clearly shows solid talent as a historian and as a storyteller.

This is a tale of high adventure, political skullduggery and naivete, courage and cowardice, boldness and timidity, charismatic leadership and craven selfishness, hardship and defeat.

Anderson vividly describes the reasons why the Continental Congress thought an American invasion would pry Canada away from British control and expand American territory, falsely and fatally expecting the Canadians to embrace democracy and rise up against the British. In addition to the political ineptness, he also colorfully explains the petty bickering among American officers over rank, command prerogatives and strategy, which led directly to a flawed strategic plan that was undermanned, underresourced and doomed from the start.

Much of the invasion campaign occurred north through New York toward Montreal, which was surprisingly captured. Benedict Arnold led a smaller army north through Maine to attack Quebec in a brave — but sorry — effort that was easily defeated. Battles, ambushes, raids, atrocities, looting, sickness, disease and a bitterly cold Canadian winter characterized this condemned invasion.

This is crisp, well-told history and a sobering example of a military and political operation marked by incompetence, neglect and mismanagement. For more interesting reading, see Maine author Thomas A. Desjardin’s 2006 nonfiction book, “Through A Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold’s March To Quebec .”

THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS

By Julia Spencer-Fleming

Minotaur, 2013

368 pages, $25.99

ISBN 978-0-312-60684-8

 

Reverend Clare Ferguson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne are the star-crossed lovers in this seventh volume in Portland author Julia Spencer-Fleming’s smart mystery series set in a small Adirondacks town in New York. And this is Spencer-Fleming’s most intricate mystery yet.

Spencer-Fleming has won multiple awards for her clever, focused mysteries, with Agatha, Gumshoe and other awards richly deserved. Her well-crafted stories showcase great talent for careful plotting, subtle foreshadowing and gripping suspense. But she also always includes convincing, real-life personal drama between characters.

By now, Russ and Clare are recently married and expecting their first child. Clare’s becoming pregnant prior to marriage hasn’t pleased the bishop of her Episcopalian diocese, and she faces a church ultimatum. And Russ confronts the reality that his beloved police department may be dissolved by the town.

Then, a double homicide and a kidnapped child sends everyone into emotional overdrive, especially as the child will die if she doesn’t receive special medication within seven days. The two police officers investigating the case have their own painful personal conflicts, but they quickly uncover strange connections to illegal drug manufacturing, as well as a lot of curious, unanswered questions about the murder victims and why they were caring for a sick foster child.

When Russ and Clare try to escape for a short winter honeymoon at a snowed-in lakeside cabin, they stumble into the case by accident, facing trigger-happy dopers and a badly injured state police lieutenant (who seems to be the smartest cop around).

Add a couple of overly officious, stern FBI agents (call them Frick and Frack and watch them closely), a slick illegal drug operation run from inside a federal prison, some fancy gunplay and nifty hand-to-hand combat and a box of unexpected porn movies.

Spencer-Fleming has another sure hit.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.