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Book Author: Paul Doiron

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.


ONE LAST LIE by Paul Doiron: Book Review

Charley Stevens is Mike Bowditch’s mentor/father figure/best friend all rolled into one.  So when Charley goes missing without explanation, Mike is determined to find him and discover the reason for his disappearance before it’s too late.

The two men have known each other for years, and Mike has always thought they could count on each other if either one was in a tight spot and needed help.  So it’s particularly upsetting when he receives a phone call from Ora, Charley’s wife, and she tells him that Charley has gone off without telling her where or why.  The only unusual thing that happened, she tells Mike, is that her husband seemed to have been upset after they had stopped at a flea market in Machias a few days earlier, not too far from their lakeside Maine home.

On his drive north from Portland to see Ora, Mike stops at the market to talk to a vendor he knows.  Carol Boyce had noticed Charley talking to an odd-looking man at a nearby table; the former English professor describes the stranger, in the words of  Edith Wharton, as “but a ruin of a man.”  The two had an angry exchange of words, and she thinks Charley walked away from the table with something small in his hand.  Perhaps, she says, it was the badge she had noticed him examining earlier among the items for sale.

Mike has two other concerns as well as his worry about his friend.  The first is the possibility that the Maine Warden Service, where Mike is a Warden Investigator and Charley had been one before his retirement, is going to hire someone who appears to be too good to be true.  Tom Wheelwright, a former Maine native and decorated combat pilot, is applying for the Service’s position of chief pilot.  Everything about him looks perfect on paper, but Bowditch nevertheless has the feeling that something isn’t right.

He persuades his superior officer to let him fly to Miami, where Wheelwright currently lives, to talk to Joe Fixico, Tom’s former electronic warfare officer and a man whose name was conspicuous by its absence among the many references in Wheelwright’s job application.  And going to Miami brings up the second concern for Mike–a possible meeting with his former lover Stacey, Charley and Ora’s daughter, now living in Florida.  Mike is now in a serious relationship with Dani, a member of the Maine State Police, but seeing his former “soul mate” creates a question in his mind about where his heart truly lies.

As in all the other books in this series, Paul Doiron’s love of nature, even when nature is not at its most appealing, shows his appreciation of the outdoors and the environment.  Whether he’s in the Everglades with Stacey looking for a loose Burmese python or back in his beloved Maine woods fighting clouds of mosquitoes and taking photos of a herd of moose, Mike is in his element, even if that element is uncomfortable or possibly dangerous.

One Last Lie is a welcome addition to the Mike Bowditch series.

Paul Doiron is chair of the Maine Humanities Council, former editor of Down East, and a Registered Maine Guide.  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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



KNIFE CREEK by Paul Doiron: Book Review

Did you know that there’s really an invasion of feral hogs coming up the east coast from the south?  It has reached the woods of northern Maine, beginning to impact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and most particularly game warden Mike Bowditch.

Mike and his girlfriend Stacey, a biologist for the same state agency, are in the woods hoping to kill a sow and her piglets.  Feral hogs are huge, often weighing over two pounds and are extremely destructive to the environment, tearing up whole whole forests and polluting streams with their waste.  They also carry several diseases and parasites, which is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has advised killing them on sight.

Stacey quickly dispatches the two sows in the group, and when she and Mike go over to get a closer look they find the remains of an infant buried in the mud.  Near the baby’s body the initials KC have been scratched into the bark of a tree.  Two days earlier, Mike had been at this very spot looking for the swine and neither the corpse nor the initials had been there.

Returning to the area the next day, Mike talks to the owner of the local convenience store, Eddie Fales.  Eddie tells him he knows everyone who lives in the area and that no one is living in the woods.  He sounds convincing, but still Mike decides to drive a bit farther down the road and check things out.  Just about at the end of the road there’s a house, almost abandoned-looking but showing tire marks that someone has tried to brush away from the driveway.  Calling the state police detective in charge of the case, he is told she’ll send a trooper in the morning to look into who might be living in the house and that Mike should stay away in the meantime.  But, Mike being Mike, he’s not able to leave the puzzling question unanswered.

Thus starts the harrowing adventure that is Knife Creek, the eighth in the Mike Bowditch mystery series.  Mike is a great protagonist, dedicated to his job, caring and compassionate to his friends, definitely not afraid to break a few rules when he thinks it’s necessary.  The latter is what got him into trouble early in his career, and it’s something he’s still dealing with–when to follow his superiors’ orders and when not to.  And in this novel there are plenty of occasions he decides to go his own way, for better or worse.

Paul Doiron has written another powerful book in this series, one that will keep you on edge until the very end.  The setting, the plot, and the characters are all first-rate; of course, by this time I expect nothing less from the author.  FYI, I’ve chosen Trespasser, the second Mike Bowditch novel, to represent the state of Maine in the course on New England mysteries I’m teaching in the fall at Brandeis University’s BOLLI Program.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.


THE PRECIPICE by Paul Doiron: Book Review

It’s been exactly two years since I reviewed Massacre Pond and five years since I reviewed The Poacher’s Son.  Now Paul Doiron’s series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch continues with The Precipice.

Mike is now several years older and more experienced than when we first met him, and he still cares passionately about his state and its resources.  However, he has recognized the need to be more cautious in his approach to the various aspects of his job, not to rush into situations without thinking them through first.  Or at least that’s his goal.

His resolve is tested when he gets news that two recent college graduates, Samantha Boggs and Missy Montgomery, are missing in the Appalachian Trail’s Hundred Mile Wilderness.  Three days after the date they told their respective parents they would call home, no word has been received, and the parents, now frantic, have contacted the appropriate authorities to begin the search.

Usually people reported missing on the Trail are found within one or two days.  But these women have been out of touch for two weeks, an unreasonable amount of time to be explained away by a simple hiking mishap.  Even though the AT (Appalachian Trail) extends from Georgia to Maine and goes through some very rugged and remote territory, there are always hikers and climbers on the Trail.  In addition, there are trail clubs or huts to sleep in, and the AT passes numerous small towns and farms.  So why has no one come forward to say they have seen Samantha and Missy since their last check-in at the Chairback Mountain hut, days before the search begins?

At the beginning of the search, Mike is paired with Bob “Nonstop” Nissen, a man twenty years his senior but in even better condition than Mike.  Bob is aloof, condescending, and seems to view the search for the missing women as a contest, an opportunity for him to be the first to find them and get another notch in his belt.  Mike, however, isn’t looking for recognition; his only interest is finding Samantha and Missy.  But as one day follows another, the likelihood of a successful outcome recedes.

When we first meet Mike Bowditch in The Poacher’s Son, he’s a man in his early twenties with a lot to prove.  His father, Jack, is known through the state as an extremely successful poacher, something that makes Mike’s new colleagues’ heads turn when they hear his last name.  He doesn’t want to disown his father, but neither does he want to live his father’s life.  By the time Mike appears in The Precipice, he’s much more his own man, but of course his family history continues to follow him.  Which is true of everyone, I guess, whether “real” or “fictional.”

Paul Doiron’s love of Maine comes through in each of his novels.  Reading The Precipice is almost like hiking the Trail, so evocative is the picture of the wilderness that the author’s writing creates.  His characters, too, are wonderfully drawn and believable.  The sixth novel in the series is a terrific addition to Doiron’s body of work.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.






MASSACRE POND by Paul Doiron: Book Review

It’s a fearful scene that Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch is called to by his friend Billy Cronk.  “Wicked bad,” is Billy’s description of what he’s taking Mike to see, and that’s an understatement.

The first site Billy takes Mike to is where a young male moose has been killed, the second is where a cow bull, a female moose, is lying dead next to her three slaughtered calves.  As Mike says to Billy, “It’s a serial killing, Billy.  I don’t know what else to call it.”

The dead moose are on the property of multimillionaire Elizabeth Morse, a businesswoman who has bought thousands of acres of forest in eastern Maine to fulfill her dream of making the land a national park.  Elizabeth’s plan has run into steep opposition, however, from businessmen and loggers in the area who fear the end of their jobs.  Elizabeth’s promise that tourists will bring money into the area is falling on deaf ears, and she has received dozens of hostile letters and death threats.

Mike Bowditch isn’t the most popular game warden in Maine.  He’s a college graduate from a Portland suburb, as opposed to most of the other rangers who were brought up in the remote northern counties of the state, and he’s not very good at taking orders that he believes are unreasonable.  That’s why he’s been exiled to Washington County by Lieutenant Marc Rivard, his supervisor in the Maine Warden Service.

Marc takes Mike off the case, putting him out in the field with busywork that has little or no relevance to the animal shootings.  But, after a few days with no results in the investigation, Elizabeth Morse forces the lieutenant to put Mike back on the case as liaison between herself and the Service.  Marc isn’t happy about this, and actually neither is Mike, but Elizabeth wields a lot of power in Maine, even with all her enemies.

Then the case goes from animal slaughter to murder.

Mike Bowditch is a man who wants to do his job but who is continuously frustrated by the politics and small-mindedness of his superior officers.  He sees Marc Rivard for what he is, a self-aggrandizing man who is petty enough to try to keep Mike from handing a case that by rights belongs to Mike and to take credit for anything his troops do.

His view of Elizabeth Morse isn’t much more positive.  He sees that she uses her power, in her case monetary power, to get the things done that she wants, regardless of the impact it has on others.  She either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand that her plan of making a national park in this poverty-stricken area of Maine will put hundreds of people out of work.

Paul Doiron has written a wonderful mystery, the fourth in the Mike Bowditch series (see my review of The Poacher’s Son on this blog).  Mike Bowditch is a terrific protagonist, and the supporting characters are equally well-written.  Reading Massacre Pond will take you to the woods of Maine, with all its beauty, poverty, and problems.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at his web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

THE POACHER’S SON by Paul Doiron: Book Review

Maine is only two states north of where I live, but there are parts of it that seem in a different world.  The Poacher’s Son, by Paul Doiron, takes us into the northernmost section of the Pine Tree State, far from the busy, tourist-visited city of Portland.  Mike Bowditch has lived in Maine north and south, but his heart (and his career) are in Down East’s dark woods.

Bowditch is twenty four, new to his job as a member of the Maine Warden Service. As he explains it, he’s not a forest ranger but a policeman whose duties are to enforce laws relating to game and fisheries.  He carries a gun and is a graduate of Colby College, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and the Advanced Warden Academy.  In the winter he investigates snowmobiling accidents, ice fishing, and hunting with hounds; in the summer it’s boating infractions, secret marijuana gardens, and poaching.  Actually, it’s poaching all year round, and he’s very familiar with poachers, as the title tells us.

Bowditch’s parents divorced when he was nine, and he saw his father only infrequently after that.  Jack Bowditch is a poacher, a heavy drinker, and a barroom brawler.  Father and son hadn’t spoken in two years when Mike comes home to a call on his answering machine.  It’s from his father, but there’s no message, no phone number at which to reach him.  So Mike doesn’t know what his father wants, but he’s pretty sure it’ll bring him trouble.  And he’s right.

The next morning Mike reads about a killing in the North Woods:  a policeman and a real estate developer were shot to death.  And later that day the man who owns the camp where Jack Bowditch worked calls to say, “They arrested him, Mike.  I don’t know how else to say it.”  The senior Bowditch was in trouble again.

Jack Bowditch makes it worse, of course, by fighting with the cop who comes to talk to him about the shootings.  The policeman places him under arrest, but somehow during their ride to jail Bowditch overpowers him and escapes.  Now there’s a state-wide manhunt for Bowditch–he’s wanted for resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, and the two shootings.  Mike holds no brief for his father, but he refuses to believe that he’s a killer.

Doiron gives the reader an incredible sense of place in this novel, and his love for his state comes through.  He takes you up almost to the Canadian border and then down to Scarborough, a suburb of Portland where my older son’s family happens to live.  Doiron himself has had an interesting career path:  he’s a native of Maine, a graduate of Yale University, has an MFA from Emerson College, is a Registered Maine Guide, and is the editor-in-chief of Down East:  The Magazine of Maine.  This is the first novel of what obviously is planned to be a series, and Doiron is off to an excellent start.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at his web site.