By Claire Ackroyd

I have written a murder mystery, set in and all about the maple sugar camps in the remote woods that lie along the Canadian border above Jackman. This is my latest venture, but it took a long time and a lot of different experiences to get me to it.

I found my way to Maine as a wandering survivor of graduate school, unwilling (and unable, until complicated visa issues got sorted out) to just go home – to southern England where I grew up. I started gardening for money, and the next thing I knew I had – for a while – the northeastern-most garden center and landscape company in the U.S. and the only one in Maine owned and operated by a woman.

When that stopped being any fun I sold off or rented out the various parts but kept living in the same place – and went looking for other ways to earn a living. The strangest job was as the mangrove specialist on a huge aid/consulting project in Guyana – followed by a spell teaching in a school in the country’s remote interior – a dream job if ever there was one. But eventually I had to find reliable work in Maine, and luck, good connections and MOFGA were all there to provide amazing work as an inspector for organic certification. I have been all over this state, in and out of farms and homes in every corner, working in and learning from the extraordinary revival movement that has made Maine the leading light in sustainable agriculture that it has become – an honor and an opportunity that I give thanks for daily. One small lingering piece of my past, the ability to speak half-way decent French, got me inspecting the big maple camps where most of the operators are francophone Quebecois. Never mind that my French and theirs bore minimal resemblance and I had to practically learn a whole new language. I found the life lead by these producers to be fascinating – and I started fantasizing about writing a murder mystery that could only be solved by understanding the minutiae of the organic certification process. So I did that, and had a ton of fun doing it. I wanted to explain this remote and lovely piece of Maine to people who see only lobsters and rocky shorelines, and to counter the skeptics who loved to tell me that organic certification was unnecessary for a natural product like maple syrup.

The book lives! It was published this fall by Maine Authors Publishing and can be found there, or on Amazon. it is doing wonderfully well, and picky readers are enjoying it. I hope that anyone who reads it finds a new understanding of the maple syrup industry and its producers.