BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: ‘Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake’ and ‘Peaks Island and Portland Harbor’


DEATH BY CHOCOLATE CHIP CUPCAKE by Sarah Graves; Kensington Books, 2022; 284 pages, $26; ISBN 978-1-4967-2922-4.


Baked goods aren’t normally a killer’s weapon of choice, so readers and baking fans can relax: No chocolate chip cupcakes were used to kill anyone in Sarah Graves’ new crime novel .

With “Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake,” bestselling crime writer Graves has cooked up another fast-paced crime story in her “Death by Chocolate” mystery series set in Eastport, Maine (where she lives ). His star amateur detective Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree is no longer driving the nails on the popular “Home Repair is Homicide” series. Instead, she and her best friend Ellie own the Chocolate Moose Bakery in Eastport.

When Jake and Ellie aren’t creating crunchy new treats like chocolate pizza or chocolate-covered venison jerky, they’re investigating murders. Eastport seems to have a lot – “Something about Eastport brings out the murder in people” – hardly a Chamber of Commerce slogan. This is the fifth book in the series, a convoluted and deadly game on a stormy night, in a haunted house with guests who get pushed around – much like Agatha Christie on steroids and Red Bull.

Summer is over, the tourists are gone, so when aging and glamorous Hollywood movie star Ingrid Merryfield hits town with her menacing armed bodyguard and a bizarre story, Jake and Ellie are suspicious. Ingrid has bought Cliff House, an old ruined mansion where 10 murders took place years before. Now she wants Jake and Ellie to bake desserts at a lavish party for an eccentric group of Hollywood has-beens, parasites, and other sleazy people. And that night, the murders begin.

Trapped at Cliff House overnight, the storm rages, earthquakes shake, bodies pile up, and Jake and Ellie face confusing diabolical plots and murders with conflicting motives. Add secret passages, subterranean tunnels, nonstop deadly perils, and miraculous escapes, and Graves has cooked up a bewilderingly over-the-top conclusion.


PEAKS ISLAND AND PORTLAND HARBOR by Susan Hanley and Holly Hurd-Forsyth; Arcadia Editions, 2021; 128 pages, $23.99; ISBN 978-1-4671-0759-4.

For some people, nostalgia means remembering all the good times they never had; for others, it’s thinking about bygone times we wish we had today, those bygone days of innocence and the simple pleasures of life.

Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” ​​series features books by local authors that showcase the history of American communities, preserving local heritage through vintage photography and anecdotal stories. This small volume is not a complete history of Peaks Island or Portland Harbor, but rather a time capsule of life, work, people, and events in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Both authors are affiliated with the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum on Peaks Island. They have captured the essence of the island and the harbor with a collection of 181 vintage black and white photographs, paired with fun and fascinating facts and stories that reveal a genuine appreciation for local history.

This is more of a history of Peaks Island than of Portland Harbour, briefly covering the very early presence of seasonal Wabanaki use of the area and then the arrival of the first English settlers. The bulk of the book, however, covers the 1800s through the late 1960s, when Peaks Island became a popular tourist destination. They discuss ferries, cabins, family and community life, the dramatic rise in island tourism making Peaks Island “the Coney Island of Maine” and World War II.

By the 1890s, Peaks Island had 18 hotels, theaters, dance halls, a casino, restaurants, an amusement park with roller coasters, a ring toss and a shooting gallery, and even its own baseball team. the summer league. Learn about kitchen bands and ‘swimming suits’ hire, garrison and WWII gun batteries, how ferry captains navigated the fog without instruments, and where actor Martin Landau makes his first appearance on stage.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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