RIVER OF SCREAMING SOULS

By Barry Lohnes

Ecco Qua Press, 2014

323 pages, $14.99

ISBN 978-1-4675-0067-8

Today, Maine’s stable of talented writers has a small group that knocks out excellent historical fiction. Two of the best are Harpswell’s James Nelson (Fin Gall) and Camden’s Jeff Foltz (Birkebeiner). Fortunately, we now have Barry Lohnes, of Topsham.

“River of Screaming Souls” is Lohnes’s first novel, a grand tale of harsh frontier life in colonial Maine in the mid-1720s. The publisher bills this as young adult fiction, but readers should know it contains graphic violence, coarse language and sexual references that may not be suitable for younger readers. That said, none of that is gratuitous and all are accurate depictions of the language and behavior of that period.

Lohnes tells the exciting story of Raven Black, a young teenage boy left alone on the Maine coast after a bloody Indian raid on his family’s farm at Royal River (present-day Yarmouth). His mother and younger sister are captured and taken north to Quebec, and Raven embarks on a long, perilous journey to rescue them.

Raven is accompanied by John Hegan, an Abenaki warrior whose own family was killed by English soldiers. The boy and the man have scores to settle, but they first must canoe up the Kennebec River and climb over the Height of Land to reach Quebec (the same route Benedict Arnold and his small army took in 1775) while fighting frostbite, starvation, brutal white scalphunters and marauding Mohawk war parties.

This is a gripping, well-crafted story of courage and loyalty, as a young boy becomes a man in a bitter wilderness where racism, cruelty, extreme hardship and the constant threat of attack were the norm. Best, however, are Lohnes’s vivid portrayals of frontier life, the survival skills and fieldcraft of “deep woods rangers” and the white man’s merciless treatment of Native Americans.

DEATH DEALER: HOW COPS AND CADAVER DOGS BROUGHT A KILLER TO JUSTICE

By Kate Clark Flora

New Horizon Press, 2014

320 pages, $24.95

ISBN 978-0-88282-476-5

Murder is a subject Maine author Kate Flora knows a lot about. She has penned a whole string of popular mystery novels, but her books of true crime stories tells us much about how homicides are committed, investigated and solved.

Flora’s first true crime book, “Finding Amy” (University Press of New England, 2006), told the grim story of the murder of Amy St. Laurent in Portland in 2001. Here, with “Death Dealer,” she takes on an unusually complex murder case in the Canadian town of Miramichi, on the northeast coast of the Atlantic province of New Brunswick, in 2003.

As a successful mystery writer, Flora knows how to spin a suspenseful yarn. But with true crime, she lets the evidence and the people involved tell a gripping story of cold-blooded murder, and how Canadian police and Maine game wardens collaborated to take a vicious killer off the board and put him in prison for life.

In January, 2003, ex-convict and drug user David Tanasichuk reported his wife, Maria, missing. His story, however, was so full of holes that local police quickly suspected that Maria was more than just a missing person.

Flora carefully describes the police investigation, the conflicting stories told by David, Maria’s friends, relatives and local low-lifes, and how the detectives built a tenuous case of foul play. But they had no hard evidence against David. They knew he was a violent predator, and soon he began to threaten the police — a frightening pattern they knew well.

Flora goes on to tell how Canadian police and Maine game wardens finally found Maria’s body after a lengthy and exhaustive search, with graphic descriptions of search techniques, forensic evidence collection, autopsy of a decomposed body and the tense courtroom drama that produced a first degree murder conviction.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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