THE NEIGHBOR

Readers may recall the classic murder-mystery movies “Dial M for Murder” and “Strangers on a Train.” Folks who liked those intricate plots of psychological suspense will find that Portland author Joseph Souza’s latest novel, “The Neighbor,” will deliver 10 times the creepy excitement.

Souza formerly worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency in the organized-crime unit and is an award-winning author of short fiction. This is a break-out mystery novel — a masterpiece of whodunnit plotting and intense double-cross, as two neighboring married couples become entangled in a toxic web of secrets, lies and murder.

Leah and Clay recently moved to Maine from Seattle, live in an unfinished housing development, are unhappily married and both drink booze all day long. Next door, in the only other house on the street, live Clarissa and Russell, African-American academics who work at the local college. The couples rarely speak to each other.

Leah is desperately lonely and is disturbingly obsessed with Clarissa’s seemingly perfect life. Leah is also obsessed with the disappearance of a college girl in an apparent racial attack. However, her alcohol-fueled obsessions lead her to shocking secrets and a downward spiral of deception and manipulation with unexpected, deadly results.

The missing girl, a dead college boy, race-baiting, head-pounding alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, false accusations, fake promises and multiple levels of psychological manipulation ensnare everyone. But everything is a lie and no one is who they seem.

Surprising suspects team up to hatch a murder plot, but who will be the real victim and who the real killer? Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, turn the page and discover you are wrong. And be glad you don’t live next door to any of these people.

IN THE PATH OF YOUNG BULLS: AN ODYSSEY ON AMERICA’S CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL

When folks think of the Triple Crown, they think of horseracing. However, if you are a long-distance endurance hiker, then the Triple Crown means something else entirely.

A Triple Crown hiker has through-hiked all three of the major U.S. hiking trails: Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). And Lincolnville author Thomas Jamrog has done all three.

“In The Path Of Young Bulls” is Jamrog’s memoir of his epic CDT hike in 2013, a well-written journal of colorful, funny, tense and insightful narrative. At age 63, Jamrog and several hiking companions began the 5-month hike (April-September 2013), starting in the south at the Mexico-New Mexico border and hiking north across deserts and mountains, through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana to the Canadian border.

And Jamrog is very clear: The CDT is not for the weak or meek. It is 3,100 miles of rugged, unforgiving terrain. The route is poorly marked with no shelters or registers, few people, fewer hikers and still fewer resources. And GPS units, maps and even local advice are often inaccurate.

He tells of broiling hot weather one day and freezing cold the next, hiking an average of 19 miles a day while carrying all his food and water. In fact, throughout the journey, finding reliable water supplies was the biggest challenge — that and getting lost in the wilderness. Boots and clothing wore out, gear was lost or broken and he lost 31 pounds by June. But he wouldn’t quit.

He vividly describes the physical, mental and psychological affects of thirst, hunger, fatigue, stress and depression, as well as the social dynamics of hiking alone or in a disparate group. Encounters with cactus thorns, rattlesnakes and grizzly bears did heighten his attention. This is an inspirational story of strength and endurance.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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