OVERKILT: A LISS MACCRIMMON SCOTTISH MYSTERY

When the owner of The Spruces Inn in Moosetookalook, Maine, comes up with a clever promotion for Thanksgiving weekend, the folks living in the small town think it is a great idea. Well, almost everyone.

“Overkilt” is Wilton author Kaitlyn Dunnett’s 12th volume in her Scottish mystery series featuring shopkeeper Liss MacCrimmon. Dunnett (real name — Kathy Lynn Emerson) has had several of her mysteries honored as Mystery Guild picks and Woman’s World Book Club selections.

Dunnett isn’t Scottish and neither is her main character Liss, but that’s okay — the Scottish angle is just a thematic seasoning to flavor a well-crafted, suspenseful and exciting “cozy” mystery. Liss owns a small shop selling Scottish products.

The inn’s promotion suggests a harmless couples’ holiday getaway, but a local sham religious cult, the New Age Pilgrims, sees it as an assault on family unity. The resulting furor attracts out-of-town protestors, nutcases and unflattering media attention. Townspeople and merchants are furious and worried, but the cult’s forceful social-media-savvy leader, Mister Hadley Spinner, is elated and energized by the wacky turnout.

During the raucous protest demonstration, a cult member is murdered, but the victim is misidentified, leaving Liss and the police wondering who the real intended victim might be. And, of course, who is the killer? Liss’s husband, her aunt and others in town are primary suspects. They all had motive, means and opportunity, and it’s up to Liss to prove her family is innocent.

Aided by her pushy, meddling mother, a grouchy but helpful librarian and a courageous young woman, Liss uncovers a 12-year-old suspicious death, a creepy connection among the cult’s male members and a charismatic, master-manipulator whose actions hide much more than just murder. What is really going on at the cult’s farm?

FINCHOSAURUS

Finch is a 10-year-old boy who loves dinosaurs. He’s always digging in the gardens at school and home looking for fossils. He dreams of discovering a dinosaur he can name “Finchosaurus.” But now he has a mystery to solve.

This is Maine author Gail Donovan’s fourth middle-grade fiction (ages 8-12). It has already been chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection for 2018 and deservedly so. Donovan’s realistic fiction for middle-graders (and adults, too) explores the confusing complexities in the lives of 10-year-old boys and girls.

This charming story has laughter, suspense and tenderness, as well as lessons about friendship, problem-solving and dinosaurs.

While digging in the class garden one day, Finch finds a note buried in the dirt. It has the word “HELP” written on it. Now Finch is ever inquisitive, full of nervous energy and imagination. He decides he’ll find whoever wrote the note, and he’ll help them. Finch is a kid you just can’t help but like.

He wants to solve the mystery himself, but he can’t keep a secret for long. He confides in his friends and grandfather and soon realizes that many of his classmates need some type of help. Anyone could have written that note — one boy is bullied, two girls have health problems, one friend needs help with math, another’s parents are divorced. Without realizing it, he gets his friends to help one another in fascinating and productive ways, but his own schoolwork suffers to the point where he needs help himself. And he gets it unexpectedly.

Whoever wrote that cryptic note and what the word “HELP” really means remains a mystery until the surprising and entertaining conclusion to this warm, inspirational tale of 10-year-olds and dinosaurs.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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