BEYOND THE TRUTH: A DETECTIVE BYRON MYSTERY

Detective Sergeant John Byron, of the Portland Police Department, has problems — lots of them. He’s investigating the suspicious officer-involved shooting of a teenage armed-robbery suspect. The police chief hates his guts, the city’s top officials torpedo his investigation and he’s an alcoholic. That’s just the start of a really bad two weeks in January.

“Beyond the Truth” is the third Detective Sergeant Byron mystery by retired Portland homicide detective Bruce Robert Coffin. The first two novels were excellent, but this one is ever better — a fast-paced, suspenseful, detailed and thoroughly convincing police procedural with a stunningly believable and timely plot.

The shooting and the officer’s statement don’t match the scene’s evidence. The media, politicians and the public rush to judgment, crying police brutality and unfairly condemning the officer, resulting in violent protests, death threats and shameful political posturing. Byron and his team work the case with patient, professional deliberation, but disparate forces in the police department and city hall are working their own obstructive agendas and want Byron off the case. He is not surprised: “Never underestimate what people are capable of.”

His investigation leads to a group of free-rein high school students, uncooperative parents, lying witnesses, illegal drugs, a smear campaign, a years-old vendetta, a bloody supermarket assassination attempt and questions about whether the original armed robbery was after money or something else. And the FBI is no help at all. It’s no wonder Byron wants a drink.

He wonders why the police department won’t help clear the officer’s name, and his insubordination, disobedience and contempt for the chief and city hall earn him some very unwelcome attention. He solves the case, but has some scores to settle later — hopefully in the certain sequel.

DOWN EAST: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MARITIME MAINE

Maine is lucky to have award-winning Portland author Lincoln Paine as a maritime historian. Nobody writes about maritime history, especially Maine’s, better than him. And now his seminal history, “Down East,” is back in print. Originally published in 2000, it is now updated and revised with fascinating information.

Paine wrote the classics, “The Sea And Civilization: A Maritime History Of The World” (2013), and “Ships Of The World: An Historical Encyclopedia” (1997). Now he focuses on Maine’s maritime heritage with this beautifully illustrated and entertaining history.

He covers Maine’s coastal geography and ecology, explaining why Maine became such an important maritime trading, shipbuilding and shipping center. He then covers European discovery and exploration, colonial settlement, warfare, wind- and steam-powered coastal trade and the fisheries.

An attractive feature is the book’s colorful artwork. Numerous photos and illustrations, along with the art of famous maritime artists like Edward Hopper and William Bradford, and the reproduction of early nautical charts and maps make history come alive.

Paine tells how French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604 tried to establish a colony on St. Croix Island, but failed because “there are six months of winter in this country.” He describes European hunger for fish, furs and timber, resulting in conflicts with the natives and each other. Shipbuilding plays a big role, so Paine carefully covers the industry from the early mast trade in the 1700s to Bath Iron Works’ modern shipbuilding today.

Learn about the different types of sail rigs and ships, as well as why the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery is named for a city in New Hampshire, and how “bully captains and bucko mates” filled out a crew.

For more interesting reading, see Roger F. Duncan’s “Coastal Maine: A Maritime History” (W.W. Norton, 1992).

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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