By D.A. Keeley
Midnight Ink, 2015
371 pages, $14.99


U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent Peyton Cote is once again up to her gunbelt in murder, mayhem and strange events in this second mystery in Maine author D.A. Keeley’s clever whodunnit series after “Bitter Crossing” (Midnight Ink, 2014).

Keeley also writes under two other names, K.A. Delaney and John R. Corrigan. Golf fans will love Corrigan’s five-volume mystery series featuring Jack Austin, a professional golfer and amateur sleuth on the PGA Tour.

With “Fallen Sparrow,” Keeley is in rare form with this complex mystery set in northern Aroostook County, a sparsely populated region where folks mind their own business — until somebody gets killed. Readers beware: There are loads of clues and red herrings in this story, so pay careful attention or Keeley will trick you.

Cote is a single mom with a 10-year-old son balancing a dangerous and time-consuming job with parenting — never an easy task. Smart and tough, she investigates an arson scene thinking it’s a destroyed meth lab with a dead guy inside.

During the investigation, however, she makes a tragic law enforcement mistake that results in an unexpected murder-suicide and suddenly a simple arson turns out to be a Gordian Knot of conspiracy, treachery, lies, deliberate false leads and murder.

Cote was born and raised in the county and knows the people, so she finds herself working with the state police and county sheriff, but wonders why the FBI and CIA are sniffing around, too.

Add a couple of slick Czechs, a college professor who isn’t very smart, an elementary school teacher who is dumber, a manipulative potato farmer, a sharp teenage boy and a pile of cash nobody admits to knowing about, and Cote and the cops (including her very perceptive boss) pull out some fancy, unorthodox tricks to figure it all out.



By Marshall Dodge and Robert Bryan
Down East Books, 2015
170 pages, $17.95

There are a lot of funny people in Maine with lots of funny stories to tell. Think of Tim Sample, John MacDonald and Gary Crocker, for example. It seems like everyone has their favorite story with tourists and other hapless folks being the target for many jokes.

Maine humor has its own unique style, dry, wry humor often understated and folksy, usually disguising a subtle truth. Famous playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) once wrote: “When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.”

Too bad Shaw never met the creators of “Bert and I.”

“Bert and I” are the comedy characters of Marshall Dodge and Robert Bryan, two Yale University pals who teamed up in the 1950s to spin hilarious Maine stories, selling more than one million books and records up through the 1970s.

This is Maine storytelling at its finest, as “Bert and I” go fishing on the Bluebird one last time or tell how Kenneth Fowler’s hunting trip netted him two foxes, a beaver, an otter and a pocketful of trout with just one shot. Then “Bert and I” solve the mystery of the body in the kelp, thinking it might be poor Old Tom. It wasn’t.

Other funny stories include when Henry fell out of a truck camper in downtown Wiscasset wearing only a smile, how a county judge handled smelly Virgil Bliss, the dirtiest man in Hancock County, and how one fellow’s misfortune has “been one long fezzle from beginning to end.”

Sadly, Dodge was killed by a drunken driver in a hit and run accident in 1982, but we still have “Bert and I.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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