In this well-crafted and suspenseful mystery, Brunswick author Paul Betit taps into his 1960s military service in Vietnam as background for his tale. This is Betit’s third novel set overseas during the Vietnam War.

It’s the best in the trilogy.

As in the earlier books, the main character is U.S. Army criminal investigator John Murphy. He’s a Vietnam veteran who stayed on as a military investigator to ferret out thieves, drug users and murderers.

“The Man in the Canal” begins with Murphy’s assignment to Sweden. The country was a haven for American deserters in the 1960s and early 1970s. Murphy’s job is to find a murder suspect named Marlon Andrews, thought to be hiding out among deserter expatriates.

Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

As Murphy makes his way to Sweden disguised as a hippie bum, Swedish investigator Magnus Lund is trying to find the identity of a dead man discovered floating face up in a canal in the south of the country.

The man appears to have been murdered.

For the rest of Betit’s 198-page book, two seemingly unrelated stories unfold. One is John Murphy’s search for Andrews. The other is Lund’s quest for someone who threw a man into the Göta Canal.

The two inspectors are strangers at work on different cases. With considerable skill as a writer, Betit relates the stories as separate tales presented in alternate chapters.

Readers suspect they’re related.

The rest is for you to find out. But I’ll say this much. Reading the book is a wild ride from start to finish.

Humorous tidbits add interest to the novel. Among characters, there’s a drug dealer nicknamed Mouse for his triangular-shaped face and swept-back hair.

“Close up,” writes Betit, “he bore a strong resemblance to Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s faithful Indian companion. He was slimmer and lighter-skinned, but he wore the same intense expression as the Indian sidekick.”

Another thing I like about “The Man in the Canal” is its authenticity surrounding the Vietnam era.

One of the book’s characters is Reverend Fred, an American living in Sweden who’s come there to help runaway soldiers get benefits from the war-neutral Swedish government. Early in the book, Rev. Fred asks Murphy about a just-arrived young man Murphy met on the Denmark-Sweden ferry.

“Did he tell you what he’s doing?” Rev. Fred asks.

“He said he’s deserting the Army,” Murphy responds.

“We don’t call them deserters,” Rev. Fred replies. “We call them war resisters. They’re protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.”

Betit, who went into the army after graduating from Augusta’s Cony High School in 1965, has expertise in subject matter central to his novel. He served as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army Security Agency during lengthy tours in South Vietnam and Ethiopia. During the writing of “The Man in the Canal,” he traveled through Sweden.

The author, who graduated from the University of Maine after his service, worked 39 years as a staff writer for the Kennebec Journal, Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.

Betit’s book is a fast read about good guys and bad having it out in Sweden 50 years ago. It’s a good escape from late winter blahs.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer.