My Kennebec Tales column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel frequently touches on mysteries and mystery writers:
Cozy mystery writer Leslie Meier
Great Maine writer Elizabeth Strout Her books aren't mysteries, really. But she gets Maine, she gets people, and she's one of the best writers out there.
She only wrote one book, was a New Hampshire resident and doesn’t have a website, but let’s give it up for Grace Metalious, a writer way ahead of her time. And it killed her. Vanity Fair takes a look back on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Peyton Place
Elisabeth Ogilvie, a prolific writer you probably never heard of. Anyone who writes mysteries with a Maine setting owes Ogilvie a huge debt of gratitude. She was too early for a website, but here she is on Amazon. And here’s her Boston Globe obituary.
LIKE TOLSTOY'S UNHAPPY FAMILIES, every state in the United States is unhappy in its own way. Every state has its own crime problems, its own sad stories and its own unique mysteries.
But Maine is one of those states that lures mystery more than others. Maybe it’s because the lack of a lot of the type of crime the urban world is used puts the focus on the more human problems. Maybe it’s because the state is so big, with a lot of uninhabited spaces -- not wheat fields and prairies, but mountains, woods, bogs – dark places where a lot of secrets can hide.
There's a reason so many mystery writers make Maine their setting.
Mystery loves Maine.
In Maine, the real stories are as interesting as the fiction.
Some of central Maine most recent mysteries include:
On April 9 the Kennebec Journal broke the story that a man had been living in the woods of Rome, Maine, for 27 years and had been charged by police with burglarizing thousands of camps in the area over those years. “North Pond Hermit” Captured
Within hours, the story was international news. And nearly two weeks later, details continue to emerge. Knight's Backpack Laden with Food, Tools
The novel turned to the mundane as Knight made court appearances, had bail set, and vowed to make restitution. Knight Wants to Make Things Right
When the news broke April 9, Residents of the region about half an hour north of Augusta were fascinated, but not surprised. The legend of the North Pond Hermit had been around for years, supported by stories and reports of camps -- both the kind with campers and those seasonal lake homes Mainers love so much -- had been burglarized. In fact, the Morning Sentinel did a feature in June, 2005: Hermit at North Pond a Legend and All-Too-Real Nuisance
And in September, 2012, the Kennebec Journal did a story on the “Backpack Burglar,” with the first picture to support the legend in years: State Police on Trail of ‘Backpack Burglar’
As the story unfolded, the details became clearer. Knight took to the woods in 1986, shortly after his graduation from Fairfield's Lawrence High School. His family thought he went to New York City. The legend of the North Pond Hermit grew over the years as seasonal camp owners found food and other items disappearing from their property. The Kennebec Journal has a comprehensive web page featuring all the coverage of this great story, including photos, video and multiple articles. My favorite quote: “He only stole Budweiser, not Miller Lite.” As Police Dismantle Hermit’s Campsite, Neighbors Recall Habits
Christopher Knight (top photo) after he was arrested. In September, 2012, police released a surveillance image of the "Backpack Burglar." (middle photo) Those in the Belgrade lakes region of central Maine already already knew him as the North Pond Hermit. Knight's campsite in Smithfield, Maine, near North Pond on April 9.
(Photos courtesy of Maine State Police)
But as the story continued to unfold, the novelty of the story wore off and people began to look at it more realistically. The Kennebec Journal's Betty Adams summed it up in a Sunday feature on April 14.
And, as Knight's bail was set, things began to get out of hand. Police Concerned about Exploitation
The most enduring mystery in Maine in 2013 is the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds. She was 20 months old when she was reported missing from her grandmother’s house at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville on the morning of Dec. 17, 2011. She has yet to be found.
Much of the focus of her disappearance is on her father, Justin DiPietro, who was living at the Waterville home with the child when she disappeared. The story of the previous night and what happened that morning, and what’s happened since, have kept police, reporters and bloggers busy. Images of the toddler, like the one at the right provided to the media by her family, papered central Maine and appeared in newspapers, on the internet and on TV for months after her disappearance.
Former Morning Sentinel reporter Ben McCanna took a look back on the one-year anniversary of her disappearance: "Recounting the First Moments in Ayla's Disappearance". For a one-year look back at the disappearance, click here. For a timeline check out Ayla Reynolds timeline.
Mystery writer and Maine resident Gerry Boyle, a former newspaper reporter, recently reflected on the similarities between the Ayla disappearance and his novel Port City Black and White. The novel came out first, in case you were wondering: Boyle Reflects as Life Imitates Art
Sometime in the wee hours of Nov. 15, 2012, James Cameron, once Maine’s top drug prosecutor, cut off the electronic monitoring bracelet that was keeping him a prisoner in his home in Rome, Maine, got in his car and disappeared. Cameron had found out earlier that day that his appeal of convictions related to child pornography had failed. For the next 17 days, Cameron was on the run, chased cross-country by the U.S. Marshals Service. He was tracked down Dec. 3 in Albuquerque. Cameron captured in New Mexico . Before Cameron’s capture, Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd talked to law enforcement officials and private investigators about what a fugitive like Cameron might be doing on the lam. It’s a fascinating look into the world of fugitives: The Escape Artist
Blanche Kimball was stabbed to death in her home on State Street in Augusta in 1976. In October, 2012, police said they believed they knew who did it. Kimball’s attacker had bled at the scene. In 1976 that wasn’t much help. In 2012 it was. Read how police charged a homeless Seattle man in the killing after tricking him into giving them chewing gum with his DNA on it. "Chewing Gum Survey" Leads to Arrest of Man in 1976 Killing .
The victim in the stabbing, Blanche Kimball, was largely forgotten over the years, the lot where her home was now a parking lot. Who Kimball was is now, 36 years later, almost as much of a mystery as who killed her. Police Ask 'Who Was Blanche Kimball?'