A Border Patrol agent in Aroostook County is scanning a frozen field where some high-grade marijuana was going to be dropped, according to a tip she received. When she approaches a white sack, she is surprised to see it moving.

It contains not pot, but a baby.

Peyton Cote spent the first seven years of her Border Patrol career in El Paso, Texas, patrolling the Mexican border, where all new agents are broken in. In “Bitter Crossing” by D.A. Keeley, the first novel in a projected series, she is back home, living with her mother in the house where she grew up, dealing with a recent divorce, raising her son and looking for a place of her own.

Cote is an agent on the rise, having been selected recently for the Border Patrol’s Search, Trauma and Rescue Team, an all-star group often sent on special assignments.

Complications arise when the baby she found in a field disappears from a foster home, and Cote goes to work trying to find out who the baby is, where she has gone, why she was abandoned, all while trying to track the drug smuggling she still believes is taking place in The County.

Cote’s ex-husband, who lives in the region, is trying to re-establish a relationship with their son and, perhaps, with her. Her sister is having trouble in her marriage, and the sister’s husband keeps showing up on the fringes of the case.

Since the plot takes place in a small community in rural Maine, Cote is familiar with many of the people she deals with in the case. The marijuana tip came from a high-school classmate. One of her teachers is a witness. And her family is put in some danger.

After killing a suspect who shot at her, Cote’s participation in the investigation is limited, but she continues. She begins to suspect a co-worker when the investigation into the shooting lasts much longer than usual and information leaks impede the investigation.

Part of the pleasure of this book is the description of the Aroostook County landscape, with snow flying in early fall over long stretches of farmland and rivers running through the country and along the borders. Cote is a character you will want to spend more time with as the series proceeds. Keeley, a pseudonym for John Corrigan, has a contract for three more episodes.

Corrigan was born in Augusta in 1970, reared in Readfield and lived in Aroostook County from 1998 to 2008 while working as humanities chair at Maine School of Science and Mathematics and teaching at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle. He now lives in Gill, Massachusetts, with his wife and three children. He teaches and coaches hockey at Northfield Mount Hermon School.

He also has written five Jack Austin mysteries, which took place on the PGA Tour.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or:

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