Kate Flora keeps a string of lively books going with the third in her strong Portland police procedural series featuring homicide detective Sgt. Joe Burgess. Be glad that both of them are at it again. The latest book — “Redemption” — affirms that Burgess and the series he anchors are the real thing.

In its nearly 400 pages, Flora doesn’t tell us much about Burgess’ hobbies — if he has any — or his view of the world at large. What we do learn is how an experienced homicide detective confronts mysteries of death and dying in his city and transforms them into understanding.

That’s the task that challenges Burgess in “Redemption” and, once again, he meets it well.

The story starts on a deceptively ordinary day. It is Saturday of a sunny Columbus Day weekend in Portland. “The weather was perfect. The city was quiet,” Flora tells us. And so was life for her detective, setting out for a picnic with his prospective family.

Then, only a few lines into the story, everything changes. Two boys rush out in front of the detective’s car, quivering with excitement. “Do you have a cellphone,” they ask hurriedly. “We need to call the police. There’s a body in the water.”

“I am the police,” Burgess replies calmly. “I’ll park and you can show me.”

And so it begins.

The body of a middle-aged man is hoisted from the water. As his identity emerges, we learn that for Burgess, the body of Reginald Woodford Libby is not now and never could be a routine case. Their lives weave together, through years of high school and service in Vietnam. And Burgess remembers now.

“Across the years came Reggie’s voice a little scared and shaky. They were nineteen. In the jungle and in the dark. The world was full of danger. ‘You’ll be here for me, Joe, and I’ll be here for you.’” And so Burgess is here for his friend now, a friend who’s been harshly treated by life.

From a high school star with sky-high prospects, Reggie has slipped to become “Reggie the Can Man,” a wanderer fueled by alcohol, beset by mental illness and earning a meager living by gathering and redeeming discarded cans. Now, however, the last ties have slipped, and Reggie has become for all time a water-soaked homicide victim dumped “at the edge of an old granite wharf that reeked of lobster bait.”

Burgess is committed to finding out what happened. Who did it? And why? That quest is the driving force behind “Redemption.”

In the process, author Flora moves beyond the confines of a homicide investigation to look at modern history as it unfolds in Maine and in Portland. Valuable land and the hunger it stokes play a key role. So do new and sometimes dangerous enterprises that run beneath the radar, hoping to prosper without problems in a rural state.

And, as always, among the key players are the bedrock character traits of so many Maine people that keep their state on an even keel.

Flora’s tale also unfolds in an atmosphere that, like lobster bait, permeates the air around her reader. It touches him or her with heavy veils of salt fog and moves evocatively through the streets and byways of Maine’s largest city. If you’re in Portland, you’ll be glad. If not, you’ll be tempted to hit the road.

“Redemption” is a good story. It earns its place in a strong and accomplished police procedural series. 

Nancy Grape is a freelance writer.