‘TWAS THE BITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: AN ANDY CARPENTER MYSTERY by David Rosenfelt; Minotaur Books, 2023; 295 pages, $26; ISBN 978-1-250-82884-2.


‘Tis the season to be jolly, and there’s nothing like a Christmas story full of gangsters, killers, double-cross and multiple murders to put a smile on Santa’s bewhiskered face.

Damariscotta author David Rosenfelt is just the writer to tell this exciting tale of holiday mayhem and courtroom antics, featuring reluctant criminal defense attorney Andy Carpenter. This is Shamus Award-winning Rosenfelt’s 25th Andy Carpenter mystery, always a delightful, entertaining blend of suspense, action and humor.

It’s the holiday season and Andy is not in a good mood. He doesn’t like Christmas and cares even less for legal work of any kind which is why he has no clients. The only person in his law firm who works even less is his office manager, who doesn’t bother to come to work at all.
Andy is a soft touch for accused murderers who he thinks might be innocent, and that includes Derek Moore.

Moore is pulled out of Andy’s annual Christmas party by the cops and arrested for the murder of a New Jersey gang boss. Then Andy learns that Derek Moore isn’t his real name and that his background history is very unpleasant. Andy, however, trusts his instinct (which he admits is usually wrong) and decides to defend his friend. Andy’s problems:  big motive, no alibi, damning evidence of guilt, and too many questions about his client’s checkered past. The prosecution has a solid case. Andy has nothing.

Add more murders, scheming, double-crossing crime bosses, an elaborate conspiracy of deadly proportions, a prosecutor and trial judge who both dislike Andy (no surprise there), a puzzling anonymous tip, and a police dog who likes to chew on people, and Rosenfelt has created another great holiday mystery.



THE MAINE ROADSHOW:  A ROADSIDE TOUR OF THE STATE’S HISTORY, CULTURE, FOOD, FUNK & ODDITIES by Tim O’Brien; Casa Flamingo Literary Arts, 2023; 120 pages, $29.99; ISBN 978-1-7368999-4-6.

Belgrade writer and photographer Tim O’Brien is curious about a lot of things, like where is Maine’s Sardine Museum and who invented the doughnut hole. He is so curious, in fact, that he spent five years and drove 5,000 miles around Maine to find these answers and hundreds of other interesting factoids about Maine.

“The Maine Roadshow” is the result of that odyssey, a delightfully funny, quirky and fascinating collection of 450 photos of more than 400 places he personally visited, finding places and things most Mainers never visited or ever heard of. O’Brien has written 18 books about the amusement industry (he has ridden more than 600 roller coasters), which sounds like fun, but actually must be hard work.

The book is divided into eight geographic sections, each featuring unique museums, gardens, stores, festivals, restaurants, diners, lobster and clam shacks, monuments, lighthouses, oddball road signs and some really weird stuff. During his road trip he discovered that Maine has 1,073 traffic signals and he thinks he stopped at every one.

He visited Maine’s smallest lighthouse, discovered that Sears sold mail-order DIY automobiles and houses in the early 1900s, saw Maine’s only statue of a Confederate soldier, and had a tasty treat at Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.

He sprinkles each section with interesting sidebars, like Maine is the only state with one syllable; Maine is just one of four states that prohibit billboards; and there are 65 Mud Ponds and 21 Lost Lakes (which, of course, aren’t really lost at all). Funny signs also captured his attention, like the Jackman signpost that says “Heaven is here, and hell is everywhere else,” and the sign at Dysart’s truck stop that says “Eat Here, Get Gas.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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