PORTLAND, Maine — The offices of the Libra Foundation, one of the largest charitable trusts in Maine, exude respectability. The handsome furniture, the paintings and photos of classic Maine scenes, the splendid views of Portland Harbor and Casco Bay—they all inspire confidence and a sense of trust in the organization.
Creating that sense of trust is important for Libra because the foundation, founded in 1989 by philanthropist Betty Noyce, gives away millions of dollars a year to, according to its mission statement, “enrich Maine, empower communities, and enhance the quality of life for all Maine citizens.” Among the projects, it’s developed or helped to develop: Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, the now-closed Portland Public Market, the Fort Kent Outdoor Center and many more. The man at the top is Jere Michelson, Libra’s President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, who in his spare time writes about murder, mayhem, and skullduggery. It’s not what you’d expect from someone in those hushed, elegant offices.
Michelson’s first crime novel, “Deadly Account,” takes place in Portland, and in the opening pages, something dramatic happens on the very block where he works. Writing about places he knows intimately, places he walks by several times a week makes the plotting and description easier. “It was great,” Michelson says. “I loved it.” Rarely will you meet a writer so enthusiastic about his hobby.
Most crime novels feature cops or private detectives or some variation. The protagonist in “Deadly Account” is an accountant—not an occupation known for high drama. But when asked about that career choice, Michelson’s eyes light up. “Let me tell you about accountants,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t care if you’re an accountant, I don’t care if you’re a lawyer, I don’t care if you’re a priest. Everybody’s got skeletons in their closet.”