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.

Magpie Murders

magpieWhen editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

I’m a little late getting to this popular book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! What a neat idea to have the two separate murder mysteries running together! I of course was more drawn to the ‘fictional’ one in the English village. It sat on my shelf for a couple of years and after reading it I thought where has this author been all my life?! Doing Midsomer Murder of course! One of our favorite shows! 

A character in the Atticus Pünd part of the book was watching a show, Life with the Lyons. It started as a radio show in 1950 and then transitioned over to TV and ran until 1961. It was the first family sitcom! Based on the real life of American actors, Bebe Daniels and husband Ben Lyons. You can watch a short sampling of a TV episode and listen to radio shows here

Another ‘good old days’ read. I’m sensing a real theme here in my reading :). I’m going to share a couple more books I’ve read this year that take us back too, set in Maine. So stay tuned!