THREAD AND BURIED: A MAINELY NEEDLEPOINT MYSTERY

Last August Maine lost one of its most popular writers of “cozy” mysteries when Edgecomb author Lea Wait passed away (1946-2019). Wait was an award-winning author of young-adult historical novels, as well as several mystery series like the “Shadows Antique Print” series and the “Maine Murder Mystery” series.

This is the ninth volume in her delightful “Mainely Needlepoint Mystery” series, featuring Angie Curtis, a pistol-packing former private investigator, now owner of a needlepoint business in Haven Harbor, Maine. And this last mystery is a cerebral whodunnit with a fascinating, fast-paced plot.

Wait’s mysteries have always been entertaining and full of surprises, but this one will provide the most surprising twist of all. A feature film is being shot in Haven Harbor, the plot based on a true event that happened there back in the 1960s. The Hollywood production crowd is full of hubris, inflated egos and bad behavior. Angie and her friends are helping with set decoration, intrigued by the complexities of motion picture production.

While watching a scene set-up on the rocks by the lighthouse, Angie witnesses a freak equipment accident that kills the director, a notorious boozer and sexual predator. It’s a clear-cut accidental death, isn’t it? The police think it’s a homicide, with a long list of motives and suspects. Angie saw the whole thing, however, and didn’t see anything indicating murder. But maybe she’s wrong.

Curious, Angie investigates the cast and crew and uncovers some startling secrets about revenge, jealousy and powerful motivations for people to lie and distort the truth. The director’s cause of death is even more suspicious when a mysterious photo appears and a key witness cannot be found. An exciting, confrontational gathering of suspects in the parlor, a la Agatha Christie, may not be enough to solve this one.

 IN MAINE: ESSAYS ON LIFE’S SEASONS

Maine will probably never see another newspaperman and outdoor writer as beloved and respected as Brunswick’s John Cole (1923-2003).

Cole was a reporter and editor for more than 40 years, and was the co-founder of the Maine Times in 1968 (with Peter Cox). He was also the award-winning author of 20 books and anthologies, including his outstanding bird book, “Life List” (Down East Books, 1979).

“In Maine”  is a smart collection of Cole’s wonderful essays on his love affair with Maine — its seasons, wildlife, people and family. The book was originally published in 1974, republished in 2001, and is now in soft cover from Islandport Press. The essays have not lost their charm, warmth, humor or insight over the years.

Cole loved Maine: “I have not lived all my life in Maine, but Maine is the only place I’ve lived my life.” His writing is smooth, the words glide easily with vivid imagery, lyrical, almost poetic: “The sun is bright — brighter than ever because of the rain that has just washed the air and because the sun’s new brilliance contrasts so with the vanishing darkness of the cloud curtain.”

He writes of the seasons — winter’s challenge, spring’s welcome expectation, summer’s “carnival of youth” and autumn’s beautiful transition. He also tells of his early days as a commercial fisherman and struggling journalist, and the wild times at family Thanksgiving dinners.

Many essays cover his fascination with birds — watching, studying and appreciating their personalities, grace, beauty and the simple joys they bring when visiting the birdfeeders. Learn why fishermen will never give you a straight answer about anything, why Mainers wave a welcoming hand to people they don’t know, and why he worries that good manners are nearly extinct.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.