BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: ‘The Case of the Moon Stalks’ and ‘Rangeley’s Historical Legacy’

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


It’s a refreshing change – from a detective story and a six-gun western to a great Wild West adventure tale.

“The Case of the Stalking Moon” is the last of twelve books in Maine author Ethan Wolfe’s “The Illinois Detective Agency” mystery series, a gruesome murder mystery featuring the agency’s two top 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 “John Bekker Mystery” series. By both names, he is an imaginative and entertaining storyteller.

We are in 1884 and Wyoming hopes to become a state; unfortunately, someone is systematically murdering farmers, ranchers and cowboys in the most gruesome way. The citizens are scared and sold out, and the governor of the territory is panicked. Only striking on full moon nights, the killer leaves no trace, no evidence, no motive. The settlers call him “The Full Moon Killer” and the Indians call him “The Ghost Warrior”.

The Governor enlists his friend Charles Porter, creator of the Illinois Detective Agency, for help, but it doesn’t go well. Duffy, Cavill and Goodluck soon find themselves chasing a bloodthirsty ghost who may be leading them into a trap. But why? Porter wants the killer captured alive, Cavill isn’t so keen.

As the victims pile up, the pursuit is relentless and ambushes frequent, but it’s Porter’s loyal secretary, Miss Potts, who solves the case, proving her worth as a determined female detective. Add borderline forensics, a unique lie detector test, ballistics, hot lead, gun smoke, a surprising deal with hung judge Isaac Parker, a hidden suspect and a terrifying motive, and Wolfe presents a most satisfying tale of suspense, chaos, and frontier justice.

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

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

RANGELEY’S HISTORIC LEGACY by Gary Priest; Arcadie Editions, 2022; 127 pages, $23.99; ISBN 978-1-4671-0831-7.

This slim but overpriced volume presents 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 sits on the board of the Rangeley Lakes Region Historical Society. Gary Priest knows his subject well.

Today people think of Rangeley as a popular skiing and fishing resort, but its beginnings are much more interesting. Although first settled in 1818, the first developer of the area was James Rangeley, an Englishman who arrived in 1825 and saw business potential in farming and logging. He built a flour mill and a sawmill, and the locals called him Squire Rangeley. They even named their little town after him. It was located on Lake Oquossoc (later renamed Lake Rangeley).

Priest recounts the lumber trade, tourism, and the steamboat trade that ferried tourists and workers over all the lakes in the area—Cupsuptic, Mooselookmenguntic, Kennebago, and the two Richardson lakes—to the many hotels and camps. A building boom supported tourism from the 1860s through the 1930s, with hotels, casinos, dance halls, shops, and homes. A Civilian Conservation Corps camp stood nearby in the 1930s, and the men built roads, bridges and even an airfield.

Learn about the ‘Hoot & Toot’ logging company, the motorized toboggan for winter mail delivery, what happened to ‘Sawdust City’, and the all-wooden railroad.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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