By Rebecca Eaton

Viking, 2013

300 pages, $29.95

ISBN 978-0-670-01535-1

On Sunday nights in Maine, lots of folks gather in front of their televisions to watch Masterpiece Theatre on PBS, “the longest-running, prime-time television drama in American history.” And don’t forget the popularity of PBS’ Mystery!

Masterpiece Theatre consistently puts out top-quality, high-end period drama while Mystery! features suspenseful, well-crafted whodunnits — all under the guidance of MPT’s executive producer Rebecca Eaton.

Eaton has been the executive producer of Masterpiece and Mystery! for 25 years, and her memoir, “Making Masterpiece,” offers rare and fascinating insight into the production and success of the shows. She has a home in Kennebunkport, is a Vassar graduate and is responsible for 43 Emmy awards for her various productions. Queen Elizabeth II even awarded Eaton an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire).

Eaton’s autobiographical details are much less interesting than her fabulous career anecdotes as a successful television producer (think “Downton Abbey”). She tells how she first began in 1985, rising rapidly to work with famous stars like Kenneth Branagh, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Jeremy Brett.

She vividly describes the challenges of script sales pitches and selection, production funding, casting, negotiations and the constant struggle to satisfy viewer markets (British and American), competetition with cable television, as well as the careful handling of large egos and short tempers.

Eaton explains why period drama mini-series are so popular, why they are repeated in various forms like “Upstairs, Downstairs,” and “Gosford Park.” She also explains the almost mystical appeal of detectives like Sherlock, Poirot, Marple, Morse and Wimsey, who never go out of style.

Learn how Eaton deals with pirates, spoilers and binge viewers, why “Jane Austen is bulletproof, review-proof and a total audience magnet,” and why beloved Masterpiece host Alistair Cooke considered himself the “headwaiter” for the show. Great fun and captivating reading.



By Karen McInerney

Midnight Ink, 2014

288 pages, $14.99

ISBN 978-0-7387-3460-6

Natalie Barnes is the owner of the Gray Whale Inn, a cute bed-and-breakfast inn on Cranberry Island — a comfy little place if you don’t mind the occasional dead body showing up.

“Death Runs Adrift” is the sixth book in McInerney’s mystery series featuring Natalie — the innkeeper, amateur sleuth and baker whose steamed blueberry pudding is worth killing for. McInerney’s innkeeper detective fits a nice niche in Maine’s mystery genre, and she can be counted on to provide a clever, suspenseful plot with devious villains, subtle clues and a few smart twists. Best of all, she doesn’t make crime-solving easy — she makes you think.

One day, while out on the water in her skiff, Natalie comes upon a drifting rowboat with a dead man inside. The victim, Derek Morton, is a no-good, callow youth, roundly disliked by almost everybody on the island, so few folks care that he’s been shot to death.

Derek, however, had some personal connections that affect Natalie and her best friend, and Natalie just can’t keep her nose out of the police investigation.

As Natalie and her friends wring their hands over this recent murder, two of her inn’s guests are investigating the murder of a popular priest more than 90 years before. Natalie now has a fresh body and a pile of old bones to think about.

As expected, the cops are well-intentioned but inept, as Natalie finds important clues they missed. The island’s only sheriff’s deputy is curiously not clued into the investigation at all. Anonymous tips and arrests misdirect everyone, until Natalie figures out what one clue really means.

There is plenty of suspicious illegal activity on the island (is that black pepper, I smell?), and the identity of Derek’s killer will surprise even Natalie.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.