“HID FROM OUR EYES” by Julia Spencer-Fleming; Minotaur, 2020; 339 pages, $27.99.

“HID FROM OUR EYES”

It’s been seven years since Maine author Julia Spencer-Fleming’s last mystery, “Through the Evil Days” in 2013, but her fans will be glad she’s back with the ninth book in her popular Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series.

Spencer-Fleming is a best-selling and award-winning author whose mysteries have earned legions of loyal readers, drawn to her vivid characters and delightfully complex plots. It’s been a long wait, but “Hid From Our Eyes” makes up for that.

Spencer-Fleming masterfully blends the personal and professional lives of her characters, especially the conflicts, challenges and decisions they make that impact every aspect of their lives. Clare is an Iraq war veteran, now an Episcopal priest suffering from PTSD and substance abuse, while caring for a new baby. Her husband Russ is the small-town police chief of Millers Kill, New York, carrying his own baggage of past deeds.

Russ is now facing the most puzzling case of his career: an unidentified young woman is found dead in a roadway, in exactly the same place and same condition as two other unexplained, unsolved deaths — one in 1972, the other in 1952. And in the 1972 case, Russ, as a young soldier returning from Vietnam, was considered a prime suspect. There are no clues, no identifications, no evidence, not even a cause of death for all three victims — and no arrests.

Russ, however, is determined to solve the latest mystery before the town votes to disband the police department. Clare and others become involved in the tangled investigation — the three deaths must be connected, right? An illegal search, a surprising suicide (or is it murder?), some cleverly obscure clues and a little luck reveal an insidious undercurrent of deadly malice hidden in plain sight. And a sequel awaits.

“DEATH IN ACADIA: AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN MAINE’S NATIONAL PARK” by Randi Minetor; Down East Books, 2019; 161 pages, $18.95.

 “DEATH IN ACADIA: AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN MAINE’S NATIONAL PARK”

Maine’s Acadia National Park attracts 3.5 million visitors a year to its spectacular natural beauty and outdoor activities. However, as author Randi Minetor so graphically points out, not everybody gets out alive.

“Death in Acadia” is Minetor’s morbidly fascinating book about the folks who came to Acadia but never went home due to a wide variety of fatal misadventures — including murder. Minetor is a prolific writer who seems stuck on the subject of deaths at popular outdoor locations like Mount Katahdin, Mount Washington, Zion National Park and Glacier National Park.

As unusual as her books are, she still tells a good story — detailed, exciting, suspenseful and revealing. And the message is clear: Bad things can happen to good people through a simple misstep, inattention, ignorance, poor planning, unnecessary risk-taking, bravado, stupidity and plain old bad luck. And there is always the lurking element of murder.

Minetor wisely (and considerately) does not include deaths by suicide or medical issue, but what’s left will curl your hair. She tells of people flocking to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and the cliffs to watch huge storm waves, ignoring park ranger warnings to stay back, and the tragic results of rogue waves killing and injuring people. Drownings in the sea and the park’s lakes are common, as are falls from cliffs, including the very dangerous game of “rockhopping” across slippery granite.

Other stories tell of death by accidental gunshot; a dynamite blast gone wrong; a mysterious plane crash; a curious death by cell phone and poodle; and the unsolved murder of a hitchhiker. Best, however, are her descriptions of rangers, police officers, firemen, EMTs, Coast Guardsmen and volunteers who willingly risk their lives to save others in often difficult and dangerous rescues and recoveries.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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