A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM: A JOE BURGESS MYSTERY

By Kate Flora

ePublishing Works!  2019

288 pages, $18.99

Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess is in a bad mood, but then, he usually is. As a homicide detective with the Portland Police Department, Joe has seen cruelty in all forms, but this case means his always simmering temper is now boiling hot, and somebody is going to pay.

This is the seventh Joe Burgess mystery by award-winning Maine author Kate Flora. She also writes the Theo Kozak mystery series, and penned two excellent true-crime, nonfiction books, “Finding Amy” and “Shots Fired.”

This latest mystery is the grittiest and most timely yet, as Joe and his team investigate the brutal murder of a teenage sex slave, uncovering an insidious sex-trafficking conspiracy that shocks and infuriates even the most hard-boiled cops. The mutilated body of a young girl is found with no head and no hands. Breast implants and a distinctive sleeve tattoo are the only clues to her identity.

This case, however, is weird from the start. The person who found the body isn’t telling the truth, and a man claiming to be a concerned foster parent to a missing girl isn’t concerned at all. Other witnesses are indifferent or deliberately obstructive, and even DHHS won’t help. Joe and his team, Detectives Kyle and Perry, are angry and frustrated, using expediency, threats and intimidation to get the information they need. Joe won’t tolerate ignorance or interference from anyone, not even the police brass who are strangely incompetent and unfocused.

Then, when Joe’s teenage niece goes missing, the case becomes personal and the gloves come off. Clues, evidence and tips lead directly to a murderous organization that will kill anyone who gets in its way.

Flora deftly and graphically portrays hard-working cops mired in bureaucratic apathy while fighting the vicious cycle of teenage sex trafficking in Maine.

 

COASTAL MAINE IN WORDS AND ART

By Yorozuya Yohaku and Ramona du Houx

Polar Bear & Company, 2019

101 pages, $22

An author’s advice to unknown writers: “Writing is easy. Just write a bunch of words, then cross out the ones that don’t fit.” Easy, right? However, the real challenge for unknown writers is getting someone to notice you. Fortunately, the Solon Center for Research and Publishing has solved that problem for 17 previously unknown writers.

The SCRP recently held a writing contest and the 28 stories collected here are the finalists from among all the entries. Centered around Rockland and its coastal area, and in conjunction with the Fukurou Gallery, the stories and their accompanying photo art evoke mystery, wonder, warmth, memory, fantasy, dreams and hopes.

The featured writers have real talent, conveying convincing emotion, vivid imagery and thoughtful imagination. Lynn Smith’s story “Every Light Casts a Shadow” finds a young granddaughter discovering a long-lost pocket watch and unwittingly solving a curious lighthouse death and a long-held secret.

The creepiest story is Rosemarie Nervelle’s “The Ship Osprey,” which pits a wife waiting for her husband to return from the sea with a ghost ship, a kindly captain and a strange epitaph. The best story is “Slipstream of the Moon” by Ed Peele, a beautifully told, fanciful tale of a couple’s nighttime charter boat sail from the sea to the moon and the stars, and their boat captain who wisely cautions: “We do not start all voyages where we think we should.” And he’s not kidding.

Other stories include a man sailing alone fondly remembering his boyhood with his brother; a young girl recalls all those beach outings with her lively, fun-loving family; a teenager’s lakeside romance with a midnight cruise; the drudge of working in a smelly sardine factory; and a man’s interesting conversations with his pal, the moon.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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