HALLOWEEN PARTY MURDER by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross; Kensington, 2021; 328 pages, $26.


Free advice: For Halloween don’t dress up as a pinata or Lady Godiva — neither costume will turn out well, and try not to be murdered that night.

“Halloween Party Murder,” by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Rossis, is the second Halloween murder-mystery collection by these three authors, following “Haunted House Murder” in 2019. There are three novellas, all set in Maine, featuring characters frequently used by the authors in various mystery series. This is fun, creepy, holiday mayhem, but not as good as a bag full of Snickers bars.

“Halloween Party Murder” by Leslie Meier finds journalist Lucy Stone helping Ty and Heather Moon decorate for their lavish Halloween party. The Moon’s home already has a reputation as a haunted house, and Ty’s skill as a Hollywood special-effects artist is sure to entertain the guests. However, nobody figured there’s be an actual murder victim in the bathtub. Add illegal drugs, funny business at the police station, and a killer who is too close to everyone.

In “Death of a Halloween Party Monster” by Lee Hollis, Bar Harbor’s newest restaurant owner Haley Powell is up to her monster meatball sliders in murder at her holiday open house, when a party guest dressed as Pennywise the Clown is found murdered in the walk-in freezer. Everyone suspects that only seven adults and two kids could possibly be the killer, but is that right? The movie-monster Halloween party has a deadly secret hidden right there in the restaurant.

Finally, in “Scared Off” by Barbara Ross, a teenage-girls’ sleepover turns into a wild house-trashing party complete with a dead woman flying through the air, a panicked crowd running away, plenty of finger-pointing, a mistaken accusation and the body’s curious disappearance. And nobody knows anything about the victim — not the truth anyway.


OXBOW ISLAND GANG: LOBSTER GRAVEYARD by Rae Chalmers; Maine Authors Publishing, 2021; 201 pages, $13.95.


Oxbow Island. out in Casco Bay. is a great place to celebrate Halloween. The islanders go all-out with a spooky haunted house, a pumpkin pie-eating contest, and crazy costumes for kids and adults. This year, however, Oxbow Island has something much more sinister going on.

“Lobster Graveyard” is the second volume in Maine author Rae Chalmers’s excellent young-adult environmental-mystery series. This book is for young 8-12-year-old readers. It is great fun, full of mystery, nail-biting suspense, action, humor, and some powerful lessons about friendship and community. Think of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but without the pressed chinos and bobby sox.

Twelve-year-old Bear Houtman is visiting his grandmother on the island in late October, doing a school project on oceanography, hanging out with good friend Olivia, and planning to build “the biggest pumpkin pyramid ever seen on earth,” for Halloween. As the kids and adults gather pumpkins for the pyramid, Bear, Olivia and Honey the Wonder Dog discover a lobster graveyard where someone is burying an illegal lobster catch.

While Olivia and her new friend Ubah, an immigrant girl from Somalia, deal with school bullies, and Bear works on his project with an old lobsterman, somebody is committing a serious crime that can adversely affect the lobster fishing industry if not stopped.

Pumpkins accumulate, unexpected pals help Olivia and Ubah, the island’s adults watch out for everyone, and the evidence the kids discover means great danger. Bear and Olivia investigate, sort through potential suspects, and catch a break with a surprising identification. Their plan to catch the crook is very risky, resulting in a chaotic chase (which is pretty funny, especially the bathroom scene).

And the Halloween celebration on Oxbow Island is a smash hit.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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