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HATCHET ISLAND by Paul Doiron: Book Review

A young man is driving to a small island in Maine.  The previous evening he finally had slept without the night terrors that had been plaguing him for months, and he’s feeling free.  He stops at a bridge, steps out of his car, and disregarding the cries of people in the cars behind him, leaps over the low railing into the frigid river below.

Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden, and his significant other, Stacey Stevens, are also heading up the coast, unaware of the tragedy that has taken place.  Stacey has received an email from a college friend and fellow biologist, Kendra Ballard, who is working as the project manager for the restoration efforts of Maine seabirds on Baker Island.

Dr. Maeve McLeary, the project’s director, left the island without informing Kendra or the two other researchers on the island.  Now Maeve has been gone for two days without checking in, and the three people on Baker Island are worried.

Kendra asks Stacey to come to the island the following day with Mike.  “Make sure he brings his badge and gun,” a directive that strikes fear into Stacey.  Stacey tells Mike that Maeve never left the island during the puffins’ breeding season, so the question is why she would do so now without informing Kendra or the others where she was going and why.

The seabird project is facing opposition from various quarters.  Someone has been shooting at the observation blinds (shelters to observe birds) and buildings on the island, there was a man-created infestation of weasels, and harassing boats are in the nearby waters.  Mike and Stacey stop at the island, and although there’s definitely tension in the air, there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it, especially given Maeve’s absence.

Finally Maeve contacts Kendra and says she is returning home.  Somewhat reassured by this, Mike and Stacey leave the island, deciding to continue their kayaking vacation.  But in the middle of the night Mike is awakened by gunshots that sound as if they’re coming from Baker, so the two get up at dawn and return there to find a horrifying sight.

The situation continues to explode, featuring a double murder, a missing intern, a second suicide, and a visit to neighboring Hatchet Island, a place under the control of the ultra-wealthy Markhams, Alyce and Clay.  There Mike and Stacey learn that the young man who jumped off the bridge a few days earlier had been an intern on Baker and also had lived on Hatchet.  The secrets surrounding both islands keep spreading in ever-widening circles, like a pebble tossed into the surrounding harbor.

Hatchet Island is another outstanding novel featuring Mike Bowditch, one of the most likable and human protagonists in detective fiction.  It is the thirteenth mystery in the canon, and it is an exceptional entry in the series.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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