HAUNTED HOUSE MURDER

Halloween is usually a night of silly fun for kids and grownups, with costumes, candy, trick-or-treating, and maybe an adult beverage or two. However, Halloween can sometimes be something much more sinister and deadly.

Just in time for Halloween, “Haunted House Murder” is a three-novella collection of creepy but fun Halloween stories complete with ghosts, oddball characters, mayhem and murder. The authors are already well known for their “cozy” mysteries, and these tales give them a chance to really have some fun.

Leslie Meier’s “Haunted House Murder” features part-time reporter and grandmother, Lucy Stone convinced the new owners of a run-down haunted house are up to no good. She suspects a domestic abuse situation, and the nighttime flashing lights, blood-curling screams and loud noises seem to be scaring everybody in town. On a dare from neighborhood kids, her grandson knocks on the door and discovers what’s really going on inside that spooky old house.

In “Death by Haunted House,” by Lee Hollis, Bar Harbor reporter Hayley Powell is glad somebody has finally bought the haunted house next door, until the weird Addams Family moves in. Even Hayley’s deadbeat husband is spooked by their angry, threatening behavior. Then, the murder of an obnoxious local real estate agent makes all fingers point to the new family as her killers. Hayley hides evidence from the police and tries to solve the crime herself. Bad idea.

Best is Barbara Ross’s “Hallowed Out,” featuring Julia Snowden, the star of Ross’s excellent “Maine Clambake Mystery Series.” During an amateur Halloween reenactment of a long-ago murder and ghost story, an actor is shot dead in front of a dozen witnesses. Julia must solve this crime to protect her business, but she uncovers a complex plot with multiple suspects. Beware of people costumed as hitmen.

DEAR MR. WELLS: HIS STUDENTS SPEAK

Tom Wells taught English for 41 years in the Augusta school system, finishing his career at Cony High School. He didn’t truly appreciate the effect he had on his students until the day he retired, and he received the best retirement gift any teacher could ever hope to get.

“Dear Mr. Wells” is his first book, an unvarnished teaching memoir of those many years and the 6,000 students he taught. His retirement gift was a 3-ring binder full of notes, cards and letters written by his students, young and old, current and past, validating his influence on their lives.

He calls the binder “The Educational Bible According to Students,” as it contains student insights valuable to all teachers, parents, students and even administrators. Wells wants to share those lessons in selected student writings. He admits he got into teaching because he needed a job; the passion for teaching came later when he understood “it’s the kids that have brought me joy, brought me fulfillment and brought meaning to my life.”

Wells tells how he had to learn to be an effective teacher — when to be strict, demanding and tough; when to laugh, joke and be gentle; all the while encouraging, motivating and, most importantly, when to listen and care. The student comments are funny, poignant and starkly honest.

He also vividly describes how the honorable teaching profession has eroded over the past 40 years. Teachers today are under constant classroom pressures and distractions of imposed, unreasonable performance standards, intrusive technology, low pay, high costs and interference from parents, administrators and clueless policy wonks who’ve never worked in a public school.

For further interesting reading about education in Maine, see Robert Klose’s book, “The Three-Legged Woman” (University Press of New England, 2010).

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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