Thursday, December 28, 2023

Burnt Cove: A Murder Mystery Set in Maine

Originally titled "Memory," the novel "Burnt Cove" will be my 22nd published book when it is finished sometime in the year 2024.

This is the opening.

Chapter 1

Thursday, June 15, 2023

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” – Irish headstone

A passerby traveling the road that descends into the village of Stonington on Deer Isle, Maine, at eleven o’clock on that cloudless morning of Thursday, June15, would have observed a scene that could have been described as peaceful and pretty.

Framed by a white chapel to the left and the harbor with the emerald stepping-stone islands of Merchants Row beyond to the right, a cemetery with its carefully trimmed grass and abundance of weathered tombstones presented itself as picturesque in that quintessential old coastal New England way. The oaks and maples shimmered with fresh young leaves in a spring that last week had turned unseasonably warm, a delightful development, all agreed, after a winter that had continued stubbornly past Easter, when four inches of snow fell, ruining the egg hunt and sunrise services. Only the irregular mound of back-hoed earth beneath an old green tarp would have brought unpleasantness into the passerby’s mind.

A new grave had been dug.

And there, next to it in a coffin, was its designated occupant, about to assume permanent residence.

Measured numerically, the living who had joined the deceased in her final moments above ground constituted an unimpressive assembly.

These were them: Fr. Bertrand Lombardi, the octogenarian pastor of Saint Mary Star of the Sea Church, home of the island’s only Roman Catholic parish; three part-time employees, the full staff, of Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Home; and 16 mourners, all but one middle-aged or older. The oldest was a wheelchair-bound man who was in the care of an aide and encased in an Afghan, despite the humidity and heat, 76 degrees and climbing.

And thus a passerby might have assumed that the dearly departed had been a person of no particular import, in the larger sense: a local who had passed a quiet existence, troubling no one outwardly and likely having made a meritorious contribution to the gene pool; and/or a native-born returned after decades from a more tax- and climate-friendly place (Florida, if one had to guess). The sort of ordinary person who had been the subject of ordinary obituaries with an outdated head shot in the regional weeklies, The Ellsworth American and Island Ad-Vantages -- obituaries laced with “dearly” and “beloved” and “loving” and other such flowery adjectives composed by a funeral-home director with tearful input from a family member with no desire for candor, let alone full disclosure, at this Most Difficult Time of Greatest Need.

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