THE SHINING SEA: DAVID PORTER AND THE EPIC VOYAGE OF THE U.S.S. ESSEX DURING THE WAR OF 1812

By George C. Daughan

Basic Books, 2013

336 pages, $28.99

ISBN 978-0-465-01962-5

Award-winning Portland naval historian George Daughan’s third non-fiction book about the early American navy tells of the remarkable voyage of the U.S.S. Essex in 1812-1813, “an oceangoing saga unsurpassed in the Age of Sail.”

“The Shining Sea” focuses on one American frigate (46 guns) and its imperious captain, naval hero David Porter, Jr., during the War of 1812, as the ship ravaged the British whaling fleet in the Pacific Ocean before finally being out-thought and out-fought by the much craftier Royal Navy Captain James Hillyar of the British frigate HMS Phoebe.

Daughan’s two earlier books, “If By Sea” and “1812,” received critical acclaim for their wider scope of American naval operations during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Here, he wisely chooses to tell of one ship, its bold captain, brave crew and their stunning success against British commerce in the Pacific.

However, this is also “a cautionary tale for any leader who would put personal glory ahead of cause and countrymen.”

Daughan dramatically tells of the Essex’s one-year voyage, around Cape Horn into the Pacific, as far west as the Marquesas Islands, its pursuit, capture, and destruction of numerous British whalers, as well as Captain Porter’s desire for prize money and personal glory.

He reveals that Porter secretly sought wealth and the glory of fighting a single-ship battle against a British frigate — an effort to redeem his reputation in the fledgling American navy. Porter’s superior seamanship and personal courage were ultimately overshadowed by disobedience of orders and incredibly unwise tactical decisions. Despite his success against British commerce, the combat he provoked resulted in a savage sea battle and humiliating defeat in the waters off Valparaiso, Chile.

Daughan is a superb naval historian and a masterful storyteller, producing an exciting narrative of great maritime adventure.

BITTER CROSSING

By D.A. Keeley

Midnight Ink, 2014

432 pages, $14.99

ISBN 978-0-7387-4068-3

After serving seven years on the volatile southwestern border between the U.S. and Mexico, Border Patrol Agent Peyton Cote requests a transfer to her hometown of Garrett, Maine, in Aroostook Country, along the Canadian border of New Brunswick.

Peyton thinks this will be a safer assignment for herself and her 7-year-old son. At least in Maine, nobody will be shooting at her. But she is dead wrong.

“Bitter Crossing” is D.A. Keeley’s seventh mystery, the first in an expected series featuring hotshot agent Cote. Author Paul Doiron has his game warden sleuth, Gerry Boyle has his newspaper reporter and Kate Flora has her Portland homicide detective, so why not have a border patrol agent solving crimes in Maine?

Peyton is new in the Houlton district office, but she already has a well-deserved reputation as a brave, determined agent. Acting on a tip of a drug delivery one night, she discovers an abandoned baby in a frozen field. That surprise leads to further investigation of drug deals and human trafficking, resulting in one agent being gunned down in an ambush, a high-speed pursuit, a dead baby and a questionable self-defense shooting that jeopardizes Peyton’s career.

Peyton discovers that someone in her own office is undermining her investigation and her competence. When the strange relationship between desperate ex-cons, low-life bigots and smarmy anti-American academics catches her attention, her questions produce only lies, deception, and violence — and someone is determined to shut her up.

Unfortunately, Peyton is always just one step behind the bad guys. Only help from an unexpected source and some fancy shotgun work will save her. This is a gritty, authentic police procedural crime drama, loaded with clues (and plenty of red herrings) that make this a fun and exciting mystery read.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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