Local author Sandra Neily discusses new book at BHML

Posted:  Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 10:30am

Sandra Neily said an early reader of her novel, “Deadly Trespass,” said he was certain she’d be angry at his comments. “It reads like non-fiction,” he said. 

Far from being insulted, Neily was delighted. “That’s what I was hoping people would see,” she said. “It’s based on fact within a mystery context.”

Neily set her mystery novel in the north woods of Maine, where the main character, Cassandra Patton Conover, stumbles across the body of her best friend Shannon while trespassing on someone else’s land. Cassandra soon learns from an old newspaper friend, there are rumors of an illegally placed wolf-breeding population in Maine, a desperate environmental action that could potentially stop a number of money-making activities run by logging companies, and knowingly abetted by conservation groups.

If the plot all sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Parts of the background plot could be ripped from the headlines. There are environmentalist owners versus clear-cutting logging companies that want to make a lot of extra money putting in roads to resorts, and environmental organizations that won’t stand in their way in order to conserve at least some of the pristine wilderness.

Conover makes a deal with Peter, the newspaper man, to shepherd a young reporter around the woods looking for the mythical wolves, or trying to get word of them. Ian Glenburn is chasing the wolf rumors, armed only with a smart phone, and is singularly unprepared for what it takes to survive in the wilderness.

All the while, they are chasing or being chased by those who want to stop the nascent pack before it becomes a protected species. Loggers, developers, sportsmen, and even the environmental groups that are making quiet backroom deals with the loggers and developers, are all fighting Conover’s and Glenburn’s efforts to get to the truth, not only of the wolves, but of Shannon’s murder.

When they find the wolves, Conover realizes she must gain their trust, and more importantly, trust them, in order to save them, her, her dog Ian, and the future of the north woods.

On Jan. 13, Neily spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library about her book, and her plans for the next one. She gave a brief master class on north woods politics, environmental causes and compromises, and the deals with the devil that those who want to save the north woods make with those who want to reap only its profits.

But Neily realized she couldn’t be “preachy” in the book, or she’d risk turning off many readers. “I made a list of things I wanted to say politically, and then I cut it in half,” she told the audience. She also changed the names of the resort, the logging companies, the sportsman’s organization, and the environmentalist organizations. Even the diner’s name was changed. Her characters are based on composites of people she knew and knows in the field, and those who reported on environmental issues.

Still, she said, the agent she spoke to told her, “This is going to tick a lot of people off.”

“Only if it’s widely read,” she responded.

It’s a book that should be widely read.

“Deadly Trespass” is available at Sherman’s in Boothbay Harbor, and other bookstores. An e-book edition is available for Kindle on Amazon.