After reading “Inherit the Dead,” a mystery written by a compilation of famous mystery writers, I decided to pick up a book by one author whose writing really stood out: C.J. Box. I chose one of his earlier novels, Winterkill. In the story, his main character, a Wyoming game warden named Joe Pickett, becomes involved in a gruesome murder of a federal agent just as a winter storm is descending on his small, Wyoming town. The murder, concurrent with the arrival of a group of anti-government reactionaries, draws a particularly bizarre and unbalanced Forestry Service agent to the small town along with some unsavory FBI thugs. The agent, Melinda Strickland, is hell-bent on conducting a raid on the reactionaries encampment and finds the truth an inconvenient detail when faced with it. The situation becomes personal when Joe realizes his foster daughter has been abducted, and is likely being held at the camp, directly in the line of fire as federal and local law enforcement converge for an attack. Think Waco and Ruby Ridge. C.J. Box draws a vivid picture of the West and its people, but his true strength lies in his portrayal of nature, the wildlife of the mountains, the independ-minded people, and the dangerous beauty of the impending storm. He reminded me a great deal of another writer who has made the setting a character in his novels: Paul Doiron, who writes about Maine and also has a main character who is a game warden. (See earlier post called Capturing the Male Reader for a review of Doiron’s Bad Little Falls.) In Winterkill, Box explores the theme of protection as the character struggles with his guilt over not being able to protect his daughter. His sense of leaving her exposed to danger is symbolized by the trees exposed, resulting in winterkill, when the storm hits. The plot, albeit a tad contrived at times, has enough twists to keep a reader engaged and the characters are well drawn, with the exception of perhaps the villianess. The over-the-top strangeness and cold-heartedness of Melinda Strickland was a bit unbelievable more often than not, but she made a satisfactory “love to hate her” bad gal. Overall, a satisfying read and apropos on the eve of the snow expected here in the next twenty-four hours. Certainly hope it is nothing like the blizzard in this novel.
Tag Archives: Bad Little Falls
In the mailbox today I found a wonderful surprise: a gift of a book, signed by the author, from a friend who had moved back home to Maine. It turns out I had discovered a great, new author whose specialty was writing mystery/thrillers which take place in Maine. I turned her on to the writer, and lo and behold, he was at a local book signing (and I was the lucky recipient). The gift book is one I have not read: “Bad Little Falls” by Paul Doiron. The beauty of Doiron’s writing is that he has the ability to create a sense of place to the point that the locale is nearly a character in itself, but he does not sentimentalize Maine. He can describe the beauty and awe that is Maine, but also the grit, and poverty, and cruelty of nature. My friend, Margaret, who went to hear the author speak, wrote me an interesting note about his readership: Doiron, who had just given a talk at a local high school (kudos for him doing that) is credited with getting more young men to read, because before they were just not seeing anyone like themselves in most literature. Writers who set their stories in Maine are often times seasonal visitors, who focus on the pretty, coastal areas. Doiron’s newly-won readers had no problem with his portrayal of the poorer, rougher side of the Down Easters. His stories all feature a main game warden, Mike Bowditch, who has had his share of troubles in life. I read an earlier work of Doiron’s, “The Poacher’s Son” which provided the background on this character’s dark upbringing. All that aside, the author is capable of spinning a good mystery, full of well-rounded characters and always an interesting setting. Looking forward to diving into “Bad Little Falls.”