Ilze Berzins

Several new books play up mystery, wonder of Maine

By Dale McGarrigle
Monday, March 10, 2008 – Bangor Daily News

“FREEDOM,” by Ilze Berzins, 2008, Albert Street Press, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, paperback, 279 pages, $25.

The small Waldo County town of Freedom seems an unlikely setting for a murder mystery, especially when you factor in a group of Latvian immigrants, a fledgling filmmaker and livestock.

But “Freedom,” the ninth book by Ottawa author Ilze Berzins, is an unusual mystery.

The narrator for “Freedom” is Izzie, a wounded wannabe writer of Latvian-Canadian descent who is living with Nick, a doctor-turned-farmer, and is caring for her cranky old Aunt Marija. Ironically, Izzie craves freedom to live a more exciting life.

Izzie seeks escape, and hires Dzintra from Latvia to become Aunt M’s caretaker. A faded beauty, Izzie doesn’t realize that she’s being stalked by slacker film student Marty, who has made her the object of his documentary.

Also part of “Freedom” are two missing boys, a drowning on a nearby lake, and eventually a murder, although that comes late in the book.

Berzins said she was inspired to set the novel in Waldo County after spending time as a tourist in Freedom and nearby Belfast. She does a good job of capturing the rednecks, dreamers, losers and homesteaders who reside in that area.

In “Freedom,” she saves the shocks until the novel’s very end, after sprinkling red herrings throughout. It’s an intriguing read, with a peek into a Latvian subculture that few in Maine would otherwise recognize.

“Freedom” is available at the Fertile Mind Bookshop in Belfast or at www.ilzeberzins.com

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