DECK THE HOUNDS

Andy Carpenter is a rich lawyer with no clients. He doesn’t want any clients. It’s Christmas, and he’d rather walk his dogs and bet that the New York Giants just might win a football game. And then he meets a homeless veteran and his cute dog.

“Deck The Hounds” is a fun and exciting Christmastime murder mystery by Maine author David Rosenfelt, the 18th novel in his popular Andy Carpenter mystery series featuring his favorite self-absorbed lawyer.

Rosenfelt is a former studio executive with Tri-Star Pictures, so he knows a thing or two about how to create sharply drawn characters and carefully crafted, complex mystery plots — and this one is a winner.

Andy befriends Don Carrigan, a homeless veteran attacked by an apparent mugger. Andy’s good-time feeling is upended, however, when he inadvertently reveals the man’s name to the media, and the police discover Carrigan is wanted for murder. The evidence against Carrigan is overwhelming, but Andy is a sucker for a hopeless legal challenge and offers to defend him. After all, it’s Christmas; he has nothing better to do; and Carrigan says he’s innocent.

Meanwhile, a sniper is killing anybody connected to an old divorce case, and somebody is bumping off underworld thugs. The murder rate in Patterson, New Jersey, is climbing, and the police can’t figure out anything. Andy’s investigation and defense of Carrigan uncovers curious links to seemingly unrelated people and events — as well as perjury, judicial corruption and police incompetence. But, as in all of Rosenfelt’s mysteries, nothing is unimportant.

Fortunately, Andy is aided by his smart, pistol-packing wife, a ferocious and very scary bodyguard and his eager accountant’s computer hacking skills (he’s easily bribed with waffles and maple syrup). Andy’s courtroom antics are tactically brilliant and full of surprises.

BEALPORT: A NOVEL OF A TOWN

The people of Bealport, Maine, love their shoe factory. Norumbega Footwear is the town’s largest employer and provided jobs to generations of townspeople. Now, however, it looks like the factory will close for good. Or will it?

“Bealport” is Castine author Jeffrey Lewis’s seventh novel, a fascinating story about a small town facing economic ruin and an uncertain future. Lewis has won two Emmy Awards for writing and producing the hit TV show “Hill Street Blues.” His fiction is just as sharp, edgy and fast-moving as a cop drama.

Norumbega Footwear is up for sale, and just when folks figured the end is near, in walks Roger Keysinger, a summer resident and multimillionaire New York venture capitalist, who buys the factory. He knows nothing about shoe manufacturing, but he likes the shoes and needs a hobby. But that’s not all he’s looking for. He didn’t amass a $390 million fortune by being stupid.

The employees are wary but happy to still have jobs, especially Earl Hutchins, the master shoemaker, and his son Gary, a floor supervisor. But when younger son Billy returns to Bealport after three years in California, the family and factory dynamics change. Billy’s charm, clever ideas and bad decisions influence the Keysinger family in profound ways, with unintended consequences for everyone in town.

All the characters are vivid and wholly convincing, especially the complex relationships between Earl and his sons. And don’t miss the local minister’s steamy romance with a stripper at the Shady Lady, the two shyster cellphone-tower salesmen, the self-help guru, Saturday night at the demolition derby and shopping for bargains at Big Jim’s Surplus and Salvage store.

“Bealport” is tragic and funny, poignant and inspiring, as resilient, hardworking people demonstrate pride and hope in the face of economic disaster.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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