Ah, a Christmas story complete with a hopeful little boy, playful dogs, heartfelt Santa wishes and multiple murders. What more do you need for a comfortable fireside holiday read?

“Dachshund Through the Snow” is Maine author David Rosenfelt’s 20th mystery featuring wise-cracking defense attorney Andy Carpenter (after “Bark of Night”). His Andy Carpenter mystery series has always been fun, and this latest story is one of his best — with clever plotting, twists and surprises, action, suspense, colorful characters, courtroom theatrics and a stunning conclusion.

A little boy’s Secret Santa wish finds Andy up to his legal pad in a 14-year-old murder case, with Andy defending the boy’s father in a trial he can’t possibly win. Or can he? Noah Traynor is the accused killer of a teenage girl — his DNA and fingerprints are on the body and at the murder scene, and he’s kept quiet about it for 14 years. But the cops have Noah now, and the prosecutor gleefully sees an easy murder conviction.

It’s Christmas and Andy has a soft spot for the little boy and his dachshund, Murphy, so he embarks on a defense investigation that becomes more complex and weird, especially as each witness he interviews is murdered right after speaking with Andy. Then, he becomes a target, but can’t figure out why. He doesn’t think he’s a threat to anybody, but he’s very wrong.

As the body count rises, so do the stakes at trial, leaving Andy with few options, all of them bad, risky and deadly. Fortunately, he has timely help from a retired K-9 cop and his dog, his silent bodyguard, and a fortuitous piece of exculpatory evidence that just might be false. It’s a good thing Andy is a master of questionable legal trickery.



Comedian Buddy Hackett once lamented, “My family’s menus consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.” Fortunately, Mainers have a few more options and a lot more flavor.

The culinary history of food in Maine is rich with variety and fascinating connections to climate, geography, culture, immigration and innovation. And Sharon Joyce offers a fun, hungry history of Maine foods from the early indigenous peoples to today’s popular farm-to-table movement. Joyce is a chef who runs the Ambrosia Cooking School in Bar Harbor.

Not really a cookbook, this is more a quick romp through Down East food history with a few recipes tossed in to illustrate trends over the years.  Joyce tells how Native Americans relied on nature to provide fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, using creative methods to grow crops and preserve foods for winter storage. The recipe for pemmican is the perfect example of centuries-old nutritious food preservation.

She describes how European colonists depended on dried and salted pork, peas and fish, and later shifted to grains, milk, honey and fresh meat. In Maine lumber camps the cook was king, turning out hearty meals of salted meat, potatoes, baked beans, bread and molasses.  Manufacturing in the 19th century brought in more people (Irish, Italian, French-Canadian), adding powerful cultural influences to foods.

Joyce also discusses how changes in transportation (railroads, trucks, ships) and invention (ice, refrigeration, freezing, canning) altered food availability, preparation and storage. And she tells how tourist palates changed Maine’s food industry.

Learn why fat is good for you, why fish was not rationed during World War II, what salmon pea wiggle really is and how Henry Ford’s personal chef made “Model T Crackers.” Weigh in on the great baked bean controversy — sweetened or unsweetened? — and discover the secret of the “Three Sisters.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.