BUSHNELL ON BOOKS: ‘The Case of the Stalking Moon’ and ‘Rangeley’s Historic Legacy’

THE ILLINOIS DETECTIVE AGENCY: THE CASE OF THE STALKING MOON by Ethan J. Wolfe; Five Star, 2021; 257 pages, $25.95; ISBN 978-1-4328-8317-1.

THE ILLINOIS DETECTIVE AGENCY: THE CASE OF THE STALKING MOON

This is a refreshing change — a murder-mystery detective story and a rollicking six-gun western rolled into one excellent tale of Wild West adventure.

“The Case of the Stalking Moon” is the latest of the dozen books in “The Illinois Detective Agency” mystery series by Maine author Ethan Wolfe, a gruesome murder-mystery featuring the agency’s top two detectives, James Duffy and Jack Cavill, and their Mexican-Comanche tracker Joseph Goodluck. Wolfe is actually the pseudonym of author Al Lamanda, creator of the modern-day “John Bekker Mystery” series. Under either name, he is an imaginative, entertaining storyteller.

It’s 1884 and Wyoming is hoping to become a state; unfortunately, someone is systematically murdering farmers, ranchers and cowboys in a most horrible way. Citizens are frightened and selling out, and the territorial governor is panicked. Striking only on nights of a full moon, the killer leaves no trace, no evidence, no motive. Settlers call him “The Full Moon Killer,” and Indians call him “The Ghost Warrior.”

The governor calls on his friend Charles Porter, creator of the Illinois Detective Agency, for help, but that doesn’t go well. Duffy, Cavill, and Goodluck soon find themselves chasing a bloodthirsty phantom who may be leading them into a trap. But why? Porter wants the killer captured alive, Cavill is not so inclined.

As victims stack up, pursuit is relentless and ambush frequent, but it is Porter’s loyal secretary, Miss Potts, who cracks the case, proving her worth as a determined female detective. Add frontier forensics, a unique lie-detector test, ballistics, hot lead, gunsmoke, a surprising deal with Hanging Judge Isaac Parker, a hidden suspect and a terrifying motive, and Wolfe lays out a most satisfying tale of suspense, mayhem and frontier justice .

RANGELEY’S HISTORICAL LEGACY; by Gary Priest; Arcadia Publishing, 2022; 127 pages, $23.99; ISBN 978-1-4671-0831-7.

Arcadia Publishing’s unique series “Images of America” ​​has a local history focus with a published library of 8,000 books organized by states and subjects like baseball, architecture and aviation. The collection about Maine now contains 157 books and “Rangeley’s Historic Legacy” is the latest.

RANGELEY’S HISTORICAL LEGACY by Gary Priest; Arcadia Publishing, 2022; 127 pages, $23.99; ISBN 978-1-4671-0831-7.

This slim but overpriced volume features the history of the Rangeley area in the 19th and early 20th centuries, using a fascinating assortment of 228 vintage black and white photographs and detailed captions. The author lives in Rangeley, has written four other books about Rangeley, and serves on the board of the Rangeley Lakes Region Historical Society. Gary Priest knows his subject well.

People today think of Rangeley as a popular ski and fishing area, but its early history is much more interesting. Although first settled in 1818, the area’s first developer was James Rangeley, an Englishman who arrived in 1825 and saw business potential in farming and logging. He built a grist mill and a sawmill, and locals called him Squire Rangeley. They even named their little town after him. It was located on Oquossoc Lake (later renamed Rangeley Lake).

Priest tells of the timber business, tourism and the steamboat trade that transported tourists and workers over all the region’s lakes — Cupsuptic, Mooselookmenguntic, Kennebago and the two Richardson Lakes — to the many hotels and camps. A building boom supported tourism from the 1860s to the 1930s, with hotels, casinos, dancehalls, stores and homes. A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was nearby in the 1930s, and men built roads, bridges and even an airfield.

Learn about the “Hoot & Toot” logging company, about the motorized toboggan for wintertime mail delivery, what happened to “Sawdust City,” and about the railway built entirely of wood.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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