BENEATH THE DEPTHS: A DETECTIVE BYRON MYSTERY

Paul Ramsey is a hot-shot attorney with a high-priced, aggressive Portland law firm. He just lost a $10 million civil lawsuit that he thought was a slam-dunk. Turns out Ramsey got slammed and then dunked — a lobsterman fished his body out of Portland harbor with a big fat bullet hole in his head.

Portland Police Detective Sergeant John Byron hated Ramsey’s guts, and he’s not the only one. Everybody hated Ramsey — his clients, his partners, his wife and especially the cops. And maybe some other folks, too.

“Beneath The Depths” is Portland author Bruce Robert Coffin’s second mystery featuring Detective Sergeant Byron, following “Among The Shadows.” Coffin is a retired Portland police detective whose clever police procedural mysteries ring true in color, atmosphere and authenticity. His mysteries nicely parallel the gritty impact of Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” mysteries.

Detective Sergeant Byron is a complex character — suffering through a nasty divorce; involved in a touchy office romance with his partner, Detective Diane Joyner; dealing with the meddling interference of self-promoting senior officers; and now he must investigate the murder of a lawyer he despises. Could Byron’s life possibly be more unpleasant and complicated? Oh, yes, it could.

As Byron and Joyner gather evidence and dig into Ramsey’s past, they uncover criminal activity, unprofessional conduct, blackmail, two more murders and an arrogant law firm with no interest at all in the law or justice. Ramsey has been a very bad boy, and the list of suspects and motives is long and colorful.

Coffin is a skilled detective himself and a talented mystery writer. He knows just when to drop enticing but subtle clues for the reader, as the cops follow leads and a few dead ends, get a little luck and some timely surprises.

FAIRY HOUSE COOKING: SIMPLE, SCRUMPTIOUS RECIPES AND FAIRY PARTY FUN!

“Life is too short to stuff a mushroom,” said English journalist Margaret Storm Jameson (1891-1986). And, of course, she’s right, but life isn’t too short to have some whimsical cooking fun with children in the kitchen.

Camden author Liza Gardner Walsh’s “Fairy House Cooking” is her latest fairy-theme book, following volumes about fairy houses and fairy gardens. This is a children’s cookbook featuring 40 recipes for people food, and 12 recipes strictly for fairies (non-edible). There must be adult supervision when the kids are turned loose in the kitchen.

These recipes are expected to be messy fun, teaching children to be patient, to learn and experiment with food ingredients, follow instructions (this is the hard one) and enjoy whatever they cook up. The results will be laughs, lessons and an appreciation for food and how it is prepared.

In keeping with the fairy theme, there are recipes for fairy muffins, scones, cakes and breads, as well as some tasty summer beverages like honey lemon fizz. Some recipes are very tantalizing like Magic Puffy Pancakes (think German pancakes), Elf’s Ear Cookies and plum tartlets. Others are less so, like Toadstool Cupcakes and Pixie Dust Popcorn.

Walsh also includes instructions for making fairy houses out of watermelons and pumpkins, how to organize and host a fairy party (complete with invitations), and silly non-edible fairy recipes for mud pies, troll soup and bark sandwiches.

Learn how to make your own buttermilk, how to cook with edible flowers, how and why you should always clean as you go, how to make fairy dust and fairy perfume, and why we should treat birds, flowers and fairies gently and with kindness.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.