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BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: “Death of an Italian Chef” and “Salt and Roses”

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DEATH OF AN ITALIAN CHIEF by Lee Hollis; Kensington Books, 2021; 329 pages, $8.99; ISBN 978-1-4967-2497-7.

DEATH OF AN ITALIAN CHIEF

About cooking, American actor WC Fields (1880-1946) once said, “I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in food. And that pretty much sums up Italian chef Romeo’s cooking when he opened his Italian restaurant in Bar Harbor. Then someone kills him.

“Death of an Italian Chef,” by Maine-born brother and sister writing team Lee Hollis, is the 14th book in the Hayley Powell Mystery series set on Mount Desert Island. This volume follows the Halloween murder mystery “Death of a Wicked Witch” (Kensington, 2020).

Chef Romeo is a colorful and loud restaurateur – overweight, too loud, too boastful and now too dead. The police and his doctor are convinced he died of a heart attack in the hospital, but Hayley isn’t so sure that’s true. She is a food editor for the Island Times and thought she knew Chef Romeo well. She was wrong.

Hayley is a savvy journalist and an even better amateur sleuth. His curiosity is aroused by his brother who thinks he witnessed the murder of Chief Romeo, but he is not sure. There are also other witnesses, but no one will admit it (and for good reason). The police don’t seem to care even after strange evidence surfaces and an attempted murder occurs, and their apparent disinterest worries Hayley.

As Hayley investigates the death of Chief Romeo, a key witness goes missing, a New York mob hitman sneaks into town, threats start flying, and fake identities reveal a much bigger problem for everyone. world.

However, despite the initial excitement and dramatic potential, this mystery bogs down like a Bar Harbor soap opera with cheesy, stereotypical characters and an unimpressive conclusion. This mysterious recipe calls for more garlic, parmesan, and a whole lot more wine. WC Fields had the right idea.

SALT AND ROSES: THE MAINE COASTAL LIFESTYLE by May Davidson; Islandport Press, 2021; 167 pages, $17.95; ISBN 978-1-952143-17-5.

SALT AND ROSES: THE MAINE COASTAL LIFESTYLE

The English writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote that an essay “must draw its curtain around us, but it must be a curtain which encloses us and not outside”. And May Davidson’s essays in
Salt and Roses” do it beautifully.

For years, Davidson (b. 1929) wrote the “Lower Round Pond” column for the Lincoln County News, and many of these 50 short essays appeared there. She and her husband, Jim, also invented the popular Maine Buoy Bell.

Davidson is a talented and experienced writer and these essays clearly show her skills with words – creating visual images and emotions – the reader can almost see, smell, hear and feel her vivid descriptions. She writes about growing up on a farm near Bremen, traveling with her husband, raising show sheep on her own farm, people, animals, nature, weather, and boating. Some stories are poignant, others hilarious.

In ‘Shadows’ she thinks about the light of nature and how it can change and beautify – moonlight, sunlight, dusk and dawn light. In “Moonlight and Icicles”, she describes a cold, silent winter night where “even our harshest season provides the diamond edges of beauty”.

Several essays get laughs out loud like “Uncle Angus and Newfie,” about Uncle’s unwashed, scentless, and disruptive visit to the bank, how a herd of cows got drunk, and boat owners who have no idea what they are. Do. Other essays tell how a deer hunting trip in the 1950s produced no deer, but caught a wise Californian, as well as lyrical and charming stories about a mystical moose, annoyed bees, pigs, pranks, the husband who never spoke and the wife who never stopped talking.

Learn about wooden ice skates, a guaranteed way to get a seat on a crowded subway, and why Davidson positively believes “after every sunset comes another sunrise.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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