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All is not as it seems

Books

All is not as it seems

Three current novels and an oldie

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman: For a year, abetted by her husband, Julie smothers with alcohol the rage and guilt she feels over the loss of her infant daughter. After a public meltdown, she’s ready for change. She applies for and gets a job as the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse on Mercy, a remote Maine island. The change proves beneficial at first, but nothing is as it seems. When she pays extra attention to a gifted but possibly troubled student, the grandson of the island’s most influential couple, things begin to go wrong. Milchman’s fragile but courageous protagonist has to fight her own demons, take on powers she doesn’t understand, and figure out whom to trust. The book has some obscenities.

One Last Lie by Paul Doiron: Investigator Mike Bowditch learns that his mentor, retired Maine game warden pilot Charley Stevens, is missing. Bowditch sets out to find the old man. The trail takes him to Maine’s northernmost border with Canada and an old poaching case that led to the death of an undercover agent 15 years earlier. The more Bowditch discovers, the more he wonders what kinds of secrets Charley has been hiding and whether he’s really an honorable man. Doiron’s thoughtful books take place in Maine’s wilderness areas, where poachers and investment bankers rub shoulders. He writes with a naturalist’s eye for detail and an understanding of flawed and complex human nature. Several characters use crude language and occasional obscenities.

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons: Eudora Honeysett is an 85-year-old woman who has suffered many disappointments in life, which we learn about through frequent flashbacks. She’s tired, alone, and fearful of a slow decline. When she receives a brochure advertising the services of a Swiss clinic promising a painless death in a caring setting, she decides to apply. Meanwhile new neighbors move in. The precocious 10-year-old daughter lacks friends and attaches herself to Eudora. A recent widower does the same. As Eudora tries to convince the clinic that she’s ready to die, these interfering neighbors draw her back to life. Lyons has created a cast of interesting characters that show the importance of friendship for young and old.

The Fly on the Wall by Tony Hillerman: Hillerman is famous for his Navajo police procedurals. This early novel, published in 1971, features John Cotton, a cynical journalist who stumbles upon a story after another reporter plummets to his death in the state Capitol building. Cotton finds the dead journalist’s notebook and seeks to discover from cryptic notes the details of the story that led to his death. The novel provides a realistic look at investigative reporting (circa 1971 technology). It examines the idea of the detached journalist, who chases stories without regard to whom they hurt or help. Hillerman was a reporter before he turned to fiction, so the book has a gritty realism that occasionally bogs down with details of a complicated fraud scheme. Still, Hillerman provides enough predator and prey scenes to keep things moving.