MAD FOR GLORY: A HEART OF DARKNESS IN THE WAR OF 1812

By Robert Booth

Tilbury House Publishers, 2015

256 pages, $24.95

The War of 1812 was one of America’s oddest conflicts. An American army invaded Canada; the British burned Washington, D.C.; and the New England states almost seceded from the Union. If those events aren’t odd enough, a U.S. Navy warship entered the Pacific Ocean against orders and illegally claimed Polynesian islands for the U.S., and an energetic American diplomat actively promoted South American revolution against Spain.

“Mad For Glory” is historian Robert Booth’s excellent history of that Pacific misadventure and inept American meddling in Spain’s colonial affairs, explaining these two obscure escapades in exciting, graphic narrative.

The U.S. Navy never intended that Capt. David Porter would take his 32-gun frigate, the USS Essex, into the Pacific. He was supposed to rendezvous with a naval squadron in the South Atlantic. But Porter, with dreams of glory, fame and wealth, disobeyed his orders and secretly sailed into the Pacific. He captured or destroyed Britain’s Pacific whaling fleet, and then deliberately embroiled himself in tribal wars in the Marquesas Islands.

Meanwhile, as Booth so well describes, swashbuckling American diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett acted first as a spy, then as the U.S. General Consul for Peru, Chile and Argentina, fomenting revolution against Spain, to disrupt British influence in South America.

One man is driven by personal greed, ambition and dangerous arrogance; the other by naive patriotism and nationalist idealism. And both failed miserably.

Booth smartly tells how Porter’s overblown ego and poor decisions would lead to a bloody battle and his humiliating surrender, and how Poinsett’s support of squabbling, unreliable South American revolutionaries resulted in embarrassing defeat.

Not surprising, neither misadventure’s expenditure in blood, resources and national reputation had any positive effect on the outcome of the war.

FOGGED INN: A MAINE CLAMBAKE MYSTERY

By Barbara Ross

Kensington Books, 2016

314 pages, $7.99

“There’s a dead guy in my walk-in refrigerator.”

Well, he’s not on the menu, and besides, that’s not what Julia Snowden wants to see at 5 a.m. on a cold, late November day.

You would think that a dead body in the refrigerator of Busman’s Harbor’s only restaurant would put off a few appetites, but the hungry locals flock to the place. This is the most excitement the town has had since David Thwing was found dead under a lobster boat last year.

“Fogged Inn” is Barbara Ross’s fourth volume in her popular “Maine Clambake Mystery” series featuring perky amateur sleuth Julia Snowden. Julia solved Thwing’s murder in last year’s “Mussled Out,” but now she’s got a dead guy spoiling the scallops and cole slaw.

This is a snappy murder mystery with a complex, well-connected plot, mostly likeable and wholly convincing characters and a smart, unusual conclusion.

Julia and her boyfriend, Chris, operate the dinner side of the restaurant and live upstairs. Crusty Gus owns the place and runs the breakfast and lunch meals.

The police investigation quickly reveals that the dead man had been in the restaurant the night before, along with the only other customers, four local married couples dining out. Julia, however, discovers an odd connection — all four couples were lured to the restaurant that night with bogus gift certificates, and all four couples say they don’t know each other or the dead man. And, of course, they are all lying.

Oddly, Julia finds evidence of the lies and connections among the couples, but she foolishly loses the evidence and the cops naturally don’t believe her.

A car crash, a missing driver, another dead body and an old photograph add suspense as she follows perilous clues and finally baits a trap to catch a killer — but she’s wrong.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.