Mysteries in Maine X2

Earlier this year I read two mysteries, a series by Elisabeth Pollack. They are well worth bringing to your attention! Sadly they are the only books Ms. Pollack wrote. First I’ll tell you a little about the author, chances are you’ve never heard of her…

img_7352Elisabeth was a widowed, former Army wife. She spent much of her married life in many parts of the US and France. She sold real estate in Maine’s Oxford County Hills for 15 years and was a real estate appraiser. She lived for 17 years+ on a 200 acre farm in South Paris, Maine which she shared with her Gordon Setter, Kate Gordon. She was born in 1921 and passed away at the age of 91. She published her books in 1989 & 1996, later in life. Her main character Lee Heaward is a farm owner and real estate agent in the southwestern foothills of Maine. 

rowantreecropThe Rowan Tree Crop is simply a riding crop, a short whip used in horseback riding. But this one is a special crop, a talisman, for it is crafted from the wood of a rowan tree, which has long been held to have magical powers.

In this novel, magic and illusion, mystery and murder, and romance and death play out against a background of rural real estate, garden tours, and country auctions.

Set primarily in the southwestern foothills of Maine, The Rowan Tree Crop follows farm owner and real estate broker Lee Heaward, her associates and her friends through four seasons of love, friendship, introspection, recurring fear and suspicion, and finally, murder.

Unpleasant events begin when Lee takes a firm stand against unrestrained and questionable land development schemes that threaten the pleasant, established life of “The Hill” and its surroundings

An unknown and chilling presence is stalking the old Hartley place and its 400 acres even as Lee and her business partner, Meg Bundy, are preparing to list the property for sale.

Its old buildings hold the key to the mystery. It is there that strange sightings are made. It is there that violence walks. And it is there that Lee must face mortal danger, armed and protected only by her dog and a talisman made from a rowan tree her “protection against harm.”

gatheringThe Gathering, set in the mountains of Western Maine, continues the set of country mysteries featuring Lee Heaward and Hod Cole. The scene is Indian Pond at the foot of Indian Mountain where the old Adirondack- type lodge is run by A.E. Gibbons, a former art student turned frustrated innkeeper. Characters include Motorboat, a trucker and A.E.’s admirer, Enough Peabody, the yardboy whose curiosity is his downfall, Peggy the kitchen helper, Robbie, the last of the “Swampers” and a basketmaker, and Howard, a rescued pony.

Looming above the lodge, the mountain works its magic with the country people who join together to search for a lost boy. It is Hod Cole who finally solves the mystery. The Gathering is not only a country mystery, but a testament to people’s goodness intimate of need. 

gatheringmapBoth books have a list of characters in the front and maps of the area so we can visualize the neighborhood. I really like that. I liked the characters and the setting. The story line was strong and engaging. You get invested right off the bat in the lives of characters. Kate is Lee’s dog, a Gordon Retriever just like Elisabeth’s dog!, and she’s a character in the book!  I’m just sad there are only two books.

If you like mysteries I hope you get a chance to read these.


We went to Branson Missouri the first week of October. Driving around we passed John F. Kennedy standing in an out of the way old parking lot! I told Bossman I think I just saw JFK back there! Turn around!

A couple days later in another part of town, Bossman said who is that? and I looked and there was Ronald Reagan!

After a little digging I found that these guys are wayward heads from PRESIDENTS PARK, a South Dakota attraction that closed in 2010. JFK was sold to a Branson gas station and eventually was moved to his current lonely home.

Reagan was brought to Branson as a time-share condo sales come-on, but when that closed they left Ronald behind. He sits in a parking lot next to the T-Shirt Shack.

They are made of concrete and steel and weigh around 10,000 pounds! Fellow refugees are Abe Lincoln, who spent some time in an RV park in Williston, North Dakota but has since gone missing, and Teddy Roosevelt who graces the Roosevelt Inn in Watford City, North Dakota. As far as I know he’s still there. The motel has many Teddy items as decorations and is near the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park just north of town. The North Unit has the grand distinction of being the second least visited national park in the entire US! wonder which one is the most least visited?

Quirky and fun!

Go to My Grave

By Catriona McPherson

Donna Weaver has put everything into The Breakers. Now it waits – freshly painted, richly furnished, filled with flowers – for the first guests to arrive.

But as they roll up – these couples and cousins, all in their forties – each one discovers they’ve been here before. Sasha had his sixteenth birthday at scruffy old Knockbreak House, as it was then. Peach started a life of boozing there. Rosalie and Paul began the life they still share. Buck and Jennifer had one night they barely remember. They’re the lucky ones.

because the party that started with peach schnapps and Postman’s Knock ended with a girl walking into the sea and the rest of them making a vow of silence: lock it in a box, stitch my lips and go to my grave.

But one of them has broken the pact. Someone is playing games, locking boxes, stitching lips. And before the weekend is over, at least one of them will have gone to their grave.

WOW! I didn’t think I really liked this one, not one character was likable. But I had to keep reading to find out what had really happened all those years ago. I was a little disappointed that it seemed fairly obvious who was behind all the ‘stuff’ going on, BUT, the twist at the very end… well it was worth the read! My mind was changed in the last few pages. Read it!

Above the Mountains

I had a wonderful surprise recently. A friend of ours that is a pilot called spur of the moment and said, “I’m flying over to the Hawkin’s County Airport do you want to ride along?”. He’s been promising to take me up for sometime. Of course I said YES! and put the sweeper back in the closet and grabbed my shoes. It was my first time in a small plane.

We went straight to the airport first. It was bumpy as it was windy and the mountains make for interesting wind gusts. On the way home he took his time and we went high in the clouds. It was so smooth and so gorgeous! We flew through ‘holes’ in the clouds and into clouds. Then we flew over my house and the Nolichuky Dam and finally over Viking Mountain! We look out at the mountain range from our house and can see Viking Mountain. It sits in the Bald Mountain Range in the Appalachian Mountains. Viking is the local’s name for Camp Creek Bald. It is 4,844 ft. in altitude. You can see forever from the top. There was a ski lodge there at one time, long gone now. There’s parking and a fire tower and some hiking trails up there. We went up when Bossman’s sisters were here recently and got fogged in. Couldn’t see the view but the atmosphere the fog gave off was really neat. Anyway, I wanted to share some photos from the flight. I live in such a lovely place!

The leaves are starting to change color on the mountains! Fall is in the air. My favorite time of year. It was such a treat today and I’m ready anytime he needs a co-pilot! Thanks for tagging along over my little piece of heaven!

Next on my pilot friends agenda is getting me to jump out of plane! Skydive of course. I’d like to. Hope I can get up the courage. It would be piggyback on an experienced diver so what could happen?! We only live once, right!

The House That Jacob Built

by John Gould – 1945

Great Grandfather Jacob, cutting the timber from a nearby forest, built his big, rambling farmhouse with his own hands in a day when shortages were accepted as a normal state of affairs. If nails could not be purchased, wooden pegs were used. The house, however, remained snug and warm for two hundred years. Fire destroyed it the night John Gould’s young son was born, just before the beginning of World War II. In a new period of shortages, Mr. Gould decided to rebuild the old house exactly as before, and the tangled web of handicaps which he ran into were as amazing and complicated as anything faced by old Jacob. The only thing that remained unchanged was the Gould determination. You live with this delightful Maine family, present and past, through every stage of the rebuilding, meeting all the fascinating characters of three generations – people who understood that the greatest pleasure in life are to be found beside one’s own fireside.

I first heard of this book from Tim Cotton, Detective Lieutenant and criminal investigator for the Bangor Police department in Bangor Maine. I followed his wonderfully funny Facebook page, back when I was on Facebook. He said he reads this book once a year. Well, I had to read it then! 

I loved this book. I laughed out loud and I was really sad when I got to the end. It’s like sitting across the table, in that lovely Maine country kitchen, from John and listening to him tell you stories. Wonderful characters coming and going. I can see myself reading it again and I’ve never read a book twice. Mr. Gould has many books and I am definitely going to be reading more.

One of my favorite chapters was about finding ‘the right sink’ for the kitchen. It had to be just like the original one. I’ll share a couple paragraphs from that chapter with you…

The Kitchen sink is a mighty serious part of a country kitchen. How serious is best explained by the old story about the farmer who, at bedtime, started for the kitchen and turned to ask his wife, “Did you wipe down the sink?” She said, “Yes,” and he said, “Well, I did want a drink of water, but I’ll wait till morning,” Wiping down the iron sink was the last thing the farm wife did before she came into the other room. Sometimes these sinks had no drainpipe to them, and were known as dry sinks. all the water had to be carried outdoors and dumped. Any that spilled into the sink had to be sopped up with a sink cloth. Why they bothered to have a sink at all is something to wonder about, but the women were glad to have even a dry sink. As time went along and they got hand pumps, and then sink spouts, life must hav seemed wonderful.

Even the sink spout has overtones that endear it to farm people. They whistle. What they whistle depends on which way your kitchen faces, but as most Maine homes keep the kitchen toward the south, and this is where our nasty weather comes from, it is usually a southerly wind or storm that makes the sink spout whistle best. The farm woman knows the minute the wind swings southerly, and if her husband says he thinks we’re in for a rain, she can confirm his suspicions by saying the sink spout has been whistling. A spout connected with a septic tank can’t whistle, of course – it’s only those that stick straight out from the side of the house and have two boards nailed together for an extension. You’ll always find the hens out around the drain. When the spout whistles you can look out and see the south wind blowing back their tail feathers.

Wet, dry or otherwise a farm sink wants to be big. Sink makers don’t seem to know what farm women do in their sinks. These big houses we have up here aren’t eight-hour wonders poured from a tank truck. Building a farm home is more than a “housing” matter. This is a business, here, a kind of a factory, with production problems and people coming in hungry. Most of the sinks we saw in the stores were hardly bigger than the pan my wife makes Johnny-cakes in, and that pan isn’t any too big at that. The sink we had in mind would be big enough to dump a crate of strawberries in while we wash them for freezing.

It might, at the same time, also hold the dishes from dinner in the other end, and leave room to clean a mess of trout in the middle. If things go along here on schedule, it wants to be a sink the children can swing a water-wheel in, and sail a few boats. Something you can run a decent tide in. Nobody in all the world knows, but us, what we might do in a sink. We certainly aren’t interested in buying a sink who’s dimensions include drainboards. We hear of a sink one day that was long enough suit us, and when we saw it the thing had drainboards attached, and the sink itself was about the size of a bread pan.

That house must have had one amazing sink before the fire!

My old copy had a little flyer in it from the book club from 1947. I love to find surprises like that in a book!

Check out a little info on John Gould HERE. I really want to read And One to Grow On and The Farmer Takes a Wife. Downeast Maine has some of his books. Please check out Tim Cotton’s podcasts. He is a master storyteller and so funny! He just had his first book published, The Detective in the Dooryard, Reflections of a Maine Cop. Looking forward to reading it soon.

Have you read any of John Gould’s books? I hope you will!

Shouting’ into the Fog:

Growing up on Maine’s Ragged Edge by Thomas Hanna

in the fogA Depression-era memoir of life in Midcoast Maine. Author Thomas Hanna grew up in the village of Five Islands on Georgetown Island, in a small, crowded bungalow pieced together on the edge of a swamp with secondhand wood and cardboard. He was the eldest son and the second of eight children born to his young mother and his father, a World War I veteran big on dreams, but low on luck.

During Hanna’s early years, there were some bright moments despite the privation, but as the years wore on, times were often unbearable. He wrote of eating only rice and raisins for days on end, the embarrassment of “being on the town,” his growing resentment toward a father he desperately wanted to be close to, and, ultimately, his bitterness at becoming the man of the family at the tender age of 14. But, it is also a tale of growing up, of collecting Hoodsie cup lids, moonlit toboggan rides, and life in a small village. It was only after serving in the U.S. Navy during the end of World War II, far from the poverty and despair of his childhood, that Hanna found personal salvation.

Drawing on insight gleaned from his 80 years, Hanna’s Shoutin’ into the Fog is a book written with sensitivity, humor, and subtle emotion about a hardscrabble way of life, old-time Maine, and the meaning of both family and forgiveness. His personal tale casts an honest light not only on his own family, but helps illuminate a way of life common to the coast in the 1920s and 1930s that is slowly fading from memory.

I really enjoyed this gem of a book! I love Maine to begin with and this book was like sitting down with Thomas over a cuppa and having a good old talk about his childhood. Such depravation these people dealt with! A small house made of used lumber and cardboard, can you imagine the cold in the Maine winters?!! And on an island no less with cold wind from the sea. They had no water in their house until 1933. Dad would bring bucket by bucket of water from a neighbors well to fill the laundry tubs so mom could do the laundry. And all this with 8 kids! A great aunt finally paid for them to get their own well. Thomas’ dad was not a fisherman, but a salesman and did odd jobs as he could find them. Not much of a provider by any means.

Thomas was a good student and arrangements were made for him to stay on the mainland to go to high school for a period. He got to see that there was more to life than his family’s hard scrabble existence. He was honest about the hardships, the resentment, and the anger he felt, but also about all the small little joys life brought. I really enjoyed the old pictures throughout the book. A good read.