THE LURE OF BOOKS by Lynae Maxim; Maine Authors Publishing, 2020; 94 pages, $12.95

THE LURE OF BOOKS

Maine enjoys a wide variety of established authors, but it is always exciting and refreshing to see new authors take on the heady (and critical) challenge of writing their first book, especially knowing that acceptance and success are often elusive — and maybe just a little bit fickle.

Fortunately, new Maine author Lynae Maxim is off to a good start with her debut book, “The Lure of Books,” a smart collection of short stories that showcase her talent for imaginative storytelling. Well-crafted short stories are not easy to write, but Maxim seems to have a knack for compact plots, dialogue and characters.

The title story is about a women’s book club whose four members’ diversity and connection result in less reading and more supportive sisterhood. “Ultimate Betrayal” tells of a wife whose obsessive-compulsive behavior threatens her marriage, but not in the way anyone would expect.

Two stories are particularly creepy and suspenseful (think Alfred Hitchcock). “Albert Lumm” is a London cabbie who lives with his mother (or does he?). And “Unhinged” is about an emotionally damaged woman whose self-abuse suddenly goes in a dangerous and deadly new direction.

Several other stories will be immediately recognized as realistic portrayals of families and relationships. “Tacky” finds Donna meeting her future in-laws for the first time, instantly disliking them as unsophisticated caricatures. One story tells of two sisters-in-law who cannot stand each other, but must maintain an uncomfortably cordial pretense.

Another excellent story, “Let’s Do Lunch,” describes four women meeting at their high school reunion after 15 years, whose phony posturing reveals they have nothing in common, certainly not friendship. This last story painfully proves that high school reunions are just excuses for people to get together to reminisce about the good times they never had.

 

FOREVER by Geoffrey M. Cooper; Maine Authors Publishing, 2020; 265 pages, $15.95

FOREVER

American academic Alan Valentine (1901-1980) once wrote: “Whenever science makes a discovery, the devil grabs it while the angels are debating the best way to use it.” Scientific research is often the target of aggressive, ruthless foreign and domestic espionage. And scientific discoveries are not only worth stealing, they’re worth committing murder to obtain.

“Forever” is Maine author Geoffrey Cooper’s third novel, after “Nondisclosure.” Cooper is a retired scientist, bringing realism and authenticity to the competitive world of scientific research where prestige, reputation and greed may be driving factors. This is a complex mystery, overloaded with scientific jargon and detailed descriptions of experiments and research protocols. However, if the reader can wade through that, a compelling mystery awaits.

Professor Brad Parker is an expert cancer researcher working at the Harvard Institute for Genomic Engineering in Boston for the summer. One day, the FBI asks him to help expose a Chinese spy stealing secrets at the lab. He reluctantly agrees, but the result is tragic and Brad regrets participating.

A female colleague quickly moves in to take over a vacated project, causing Brad to question her moves and how she happens to know so much about his own work. An introduction to a billionaire philanthropist willing to generously fund Brad’s work clouds his judgment and multiple red flags go unnoticed. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Karen Richmond, is an FBI agent working on a gruesome serial murder case that interests Brad for one obscure reason.

The billionaire’s checkbook, his unusual demand for a private research project in a secret lab, followed by treachery, betrayal and murder put Brad in a desperate spot. But the reader will figure it all out long before Brad does. This is fascinating science, but the mystery is transparent. For a smart scientist, Brad is awfully naïve.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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