BOOK REVIEW

Spice up summer with Maine island mysteries, memoirs and more

Posted July 02, 2012, at 7:58 p.m.

On the few Maine islands still inhabited year-round, news travels fast and visitors often are met with a hairy eyeball. The sunsets are breathtaking; the tempests, terrifying. Secrets and grudges are harbored; history and tradition, guarded. An island can represent freedom or imprisonment. It can be a place of peace or war.

What better setting for a mystery?

This summer, “Matinicus, an Island Mystery” by Darcy Scott and “The Lighthouse Society” by Jerry Graffam have hit the bookstores. And in each mystery novel, the author has taken this ideal setting — a tiny Maine community surrounded by miles of ocean — and turned the summer haven into a secluded world of murder, greed, romance and secrecy.

But if you’d rather read something a bit more lighthearted, several other Maine-related books have been released for summer reading.

“MATINICUS, AN ISLAND MYSTERY” by Darcy Scott, May 2012, Maine Authors Publishing, 270 pages, paperback, $14.95.

When botanist Gil Hodges visits Matinicus, an island 20 miles from the coast of Maine, he unintentionally revives a murder mystery from the 1820s. Originally, he plans to catalog the island’s varied flora, but he ends up dealing with ghosts from the past. Meanwhile, he’s finding it difficult not to get tangled up in private wars between fishermen; a beautiful stranger sails into the harbor, creating more trouble; and a certain diary may hold secrets that could tear the island community apart.

Darcy Scott is freelance writer, marine industry publicist and an experienced sailor. Her fascination with the history and beauty of sparsely populated islands has inspired her Island Mystery Series. To learn more, visit www.darcyscott.net.

“THE LIGHTHOUSE SOCIETY” by Jerry Graffam, May 2012, Charles River Press, 270 pages, paperback, $15.95.

In this fast-paced, old-fashioned thriller, Jack Chandler is on a mission to solve the mystery of his parents’ deaths. He was just a boy when they died in a ferry accident and their bodies never were found. Despite having a good job and a beautiful girlfriend, he keeps returning to the accident and the pieces that don’t add up. In “The Lighthouse Society,” he returns to his childhood home on Carroll Island, Maine, one last time to search for the truth among the residents of the island and The Lighthouse Society, a secret organization that might have all the answers.

Jerry Graffam was born and raised on the coast of Maine and began sailing with his family at an early age. He graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2003 and now lives in the Portland area with his wife and 13-year-old cat, Fatty. To learn more, visit www.jerrygraffam.com.

“THE RECKONING,” by Alma Katsu, June 2012, Gallery Books, 352 pages, hardcover, $25.

This gothic suspense novel is the second book of “The Taker Trilogy,” a riveting story of immortality and love that begins in Maine and travels the globe. In “The Reckoning,” Lanore is trying to put her past of violence and lost love behind her, but she’s starting to wonder if she can ever truly escape Adair, the dashing, possessive man who gifted her with immortality — the man she betrayed and imprisoned decades ago. Desperate to start over, Lanore forms a relationship with a Maine doctor and pulls him into her world — a selfish act, she realizes, when Adair is thirsty for revenge.

Alma Katsu lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband. “The Taker” was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by the American Library Association and has developed an international following. To learn more, visit almakatsu.com.

“LAST SUMMER” by Holly Chamberlin, July 2012, Kensington Books, 352 pages, paperback, $15.

The complexities of teenage bullying are brought to light through the story of two Maine families in “Last Summer.” Jane Patterson lives in Yorkstide, Maine, next door to her best friend, Frannie Giroux; and their daughters, Rosie and Meg, are inseparable. But everything changes during the girls’ freshman year of high school, when one act of bullying tears the families apart. Will summer vacation be long enough to mend what has been broken?

Holly Chamberlin, best-selling author of “The Family Beach House” and “Summer Friends,” lives in Portland with her husband. To learn more, visit www.hollychamberlin.com.

“LEADER OF THE PACK” by David Rosenfelt, July 2012, Minotaur Books, 384 pages, hardcover, $24.99.

In the latest book in the Andy Carpenter series, a man convicted of murder nine years ago convinces attorney Andy Carpenter to look into his case one last time. Along with a dog named Tara, Carpenter visits the prisoner’s elderly uncle and starts to uncover secrets that could prove the prisoner’s innocence.

David Rosenfelt is the Edgar and Shamus Award-nominated author of four stand-alones and nine previous Andy Carpenter novels. He and his wife live in Maine with 27 golden retrievers that they’ve rescued. To learn more, visit www.davidrosenfelt.com.

“MAINE: THE WILDER HALF OF NEW ENGLAND” by William David Barry, June 2012, Tilbury House Publishers, 288 pages, paperback, $30.

For those interested in local history, add “Maine: The Wilder Half of New England” to your bookshelf. Barry’s articulate narrative, along with more than 200 images drawn from collections of several Maine historical societies, libraries and museums, is not only a useful resource, but also an engaging read. The book traces 500 years of Maine history, from the first contact between Native Americans and European explorers to the tourism industry in 2012.

Portland resident William David Barry has written or co-authored books with a local focus ranging in topic from L.L. Bean to the lost city of Deering, Maine. In 2005, the trustees of the Maine Historical Society awarded Barry the prestigious Neal Allen, Jr., Award for outstanding contributions to the field of Maine history. To learn more, visit www.tilburyhouse.com/maine-and-new-england/maine-the-wilder-half-of-new-england.htm.

“WHEN WE WERE THE KENNEDYS: A MEMOIR FROM MEXICO, MAINE” by Monica Wood, July 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 256 pages, hardcover, $24.

Many Maine residents can relate to bits and pieces of this true story of growing up in 1963 Mexico, Maine, a small town that relies on the success of a paper mill. After the early death of her father, Monica Wood is forced to grow up fast. In this coming-of-age story, Wood reaches outward, creating characters out of the people who touched her life in her teenage years, from her heroic eldest sister, Anne, to her priest uncle, Father Bob. A lesson in family and communal ties, this book is a perfect summer read.

Monica Wood is the author of four works of fiction, most recently the ABA bestseller “Any Bitter Thing.” She lives in Portland, where she conducts a writing program for women at the Maine Correctional Center. To learn more, visit monicawood.com.

“360 SQUARE: A MEMOIR OF ADOPTION AND IDENTITY” by Carol Lillieqvist Welsh, June 2012, CreateSpace, 302 pages, paperback, $17.95.

Readers who don’t typically pick up memoirs might want to give this one a try. “360 Square” is a beautifully and bluntly written story of a woman who, cast out by her adoptive family at the age of 16, strikes out to search for her roots — but not before much hardship, including an unwanted pregnancy, fleeting relationships and being tossed from home to home. Welsh tells memories with such detail, clarity and emotion that readers are at once drawn into her world and her desperate circumstance.

Now a birth mother and adoptive parent, Carol Welsh lives in Maine, where she is a registered nurse, educator and business owner.

“FROM GUIDING LIGHTS TO BEACONS FOR BUSINESS” edited by Richard Cheek, July 2012, Historic New England, 240 pages, paperback, $34.95.

The lighthouse has long been a symbol for Maine, a state with an unforgiving coastline and scattered archipelagos. Today, more than 60 lighthouses dot the Maine coast, though in the age of radar and GPS, the beacons serve more as romantic landmarks than as warnings for ships. The third volume in Historic New England’s publication series, “From Guiding Lights to Beacons for Business” is a visual history of Maine lighthouses, surveying the many roles they have served. Through rich illustrations, photographs and paintings, the book traces the life spans of the state’s most iconic lighthouses, as well as some of the lesser-known beacons. To learn more, visit shop.historicnewengland.org.

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