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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.



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.






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.