LIVING THE DREAM: LIFE AS A MAINE GAME WARDEN

After twenty years as a Maine game warden and three books about his career, retired warden John Ford still had some good stories to tell.

“Living the Dream” is Ford’s fourth memoir, after “Deer Diaries” in 2015, and this volume tells of his formative years growing up and his early years as a rookie game warden. Ford, who died in Nov. 2018, lived in Brooks, northwest of Belfast.

This is a collection of 37 stories, some short, some long, culled from Ford’s personal journals kept throughout his warden career. These are first-hand accounts of his adventures in the Maine woods, enforcing the state’s hunting, fishing and trapping laws.

Much of the focus here is on the business of trapping for beaver and fisher pelts, and the many ingenious and dangerous actions of poachers who ignore the laws, thwart enforcement efforts and take great delight in trying to outsmart and embarrass game wardens. Ford tells of his recruitment in 1970, the cursory training and assignment to the Burnham District, parts of four counties known for rampant poaching and violent troublemakers. As a young, eager rookie, Ford got the district nobody else wanted.

Stories describe trapping techniques and regulations, as well as poaching tactics and how some poachers actually set up elaborate booby-traps intended to injure wardens (and anyone else). Ford’s first and hardest lessons as a rookie: Who to trust? And who is a liar? He quickly discovered that informants provided the best information, especially arrested poachers who quickly ratted out their pals.

Ford also tells of pursuing night deer hunters, about a tense stand-off with three armed poachers deep in the woods, and about a shooting investigation finally solved two years later.

PRAY FOR THE GIRL

When Army veteran and hot-shot New York City sous-chef Lucy Abbott returns home to Fawn Grove, Maine to escape her personal demons, she’s not prepared for murder, racism and threats on her life.

“Pray for the Girl” is award-winning Portland author Joseph Souza’s latest thriller, after his creepy hit, “The Neighbor,” in 2018. Souza is a former intelligence analyst for the DEA, now a talented novelist of intense crime fiction.

And like “The Neighbor,” this is a complex tale of malice and mayhem, suspenseful and loaded with misdirection and surprising plot twists. This is a murder mystery that will be tough to figure out, especially as Souza keeps everyone guessing until the very end. But the clues are there for the attentive reader.

Lucy’s homecoming is a depressing return to Fawn Grove, “the veritable armpit of Maine,” a decaying mill town plagued by drugs, despair and disappointment. It is also a town simmering with resentment and prejudice toward recent Afghan immigrants. A young Afghani girl has been murdered in an apparent “honor killing,” and Lucy, feeling guilty over an incident in Afghanistan, is compelled to seek justice for the victim.

However, her involvement is not welcomed by anyone, especially the bigoted local police detective and certain other citizens. Threats, assaults, and intimidation follow, until a second murder gets everyone’s attention. Now Lucy’s plan to pursue her inquiry involves going undercover with an ingenious false identity. But that may lead to her own murder.

Lucy is a chameleon, her own deep secrets reveal much and will certainly surprise. She can claim more than one identity, and she’s a master of misdirection herself. The suspected “honor killing” may be something else even more insidious and deadly, so it’s a good thing Lucy is handy with her boning knife.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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