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DEAD MAN’S WAKE by Paul Doiron: Book Review

Trouble follows Mike Bowditch everywhere.  Even on what should be a joyous occasion, a small engagement party for Mike and his fiancée Stacey given by his stepfather and his new wife, the get-together isn’t over when the sound of a terrifying crash is heard.

Mike is a warden investigator with the Wildlife Crimes Investigation Division of the Maine Warden Service.  Given the large size of Maine, much of it either wilderness or water, the wardens are responsible for law enforcement, search and rescue missions, and hunting related shooting incidents, as well as other types of administration.  They carry weapons, issue citations, and make arrests, much like any other police officer.

Mike and several other members of the party rush out of the house to see what happened, and in just a few minutes he, his stepfather Neil, his fiancée Stacey, and her father Charley are aboard Neil’s new Leisure Kraft pontoon, looking for the site of the crash and hoping for survivors.  As they approach nearby Mouse Island, named for the similarity of its shape to the rodent, Stacey thinks she sees something floating in the water.  It turns out to be a human arm.

The owner of Mouse Island is Dianne Fenton-Whitcomb, and it’s a property that has been in her family for generations.  Now, confined to a wheelchair by MS, she hasn’t been on the island for years, but according to the lake constable Galen Webb, her husband is a frequent visitor.  And he never comes alone.

One of the pleasures of reading any mystery series from the beginning is observing the growth of the protagonist.  When readers first meet Mike Bowditch in The Poacher’s Son, he’s just beginning his career in the Maine Warden Service.  Although smart and hard-working, he was overly eager and often overstepped boundaries in his attempts to prove himself worthy of his new job and the respect of his colleagues.

Now he’s ten years older, with a great deal more experience, and it’s amusing to read his reactions to Webb, who suffers from the same need for immediate gratification and recognition that Bowditch did a decade earlier.

Another pleasure of reading a series is that many characters return from previous Bowditch novels, as they do in this one.   Stacey is, of course, present at the celebration, as are her parents Charley and Ora, as well as Neil Turner, his wife Jubilee, and game warden Kathy Frost and her cadaver dog Maple.

Paul Doiron is the former editor of Down East, The Magazine of Maine, as well as a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing.  The Mike Bowditch mysteries have been translated into 11 languages.  He is the recipient of the Barry Award and the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel as well as twice receiving the Maine Literary Award.  As with his previous mysteries, in Dead Man’s Wake the author combines fascinating characters, an outstanding plot, and his love for the state of Maine.

You can read more about him 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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