I feel as if author Paul Doiron is my personal discovery, but of course that’s ridiculous. I read his first book, The Poacher’s Son, right after it came out and recommended him to several friends and mystery fans. I immediately fell in love the main character, Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch, his dysfunctional family struggles, and the wild setting of rural Maine. Unfortunately, few of his subsequent novels left me wondering if he had lost his voice. The natural beauty of the setting and the life-like characters of backwoods Maine were lost to a more sensational plot line. His newest novel, however, felt more like the writer who won this reader over in the first place. In Widow-maker, Mike Bowditch runs into a woman who claims her missing son is Mike’s half-brother by his hard-drinking, womanizing father. And she wants Mike’s help to find him. Despite his desire to forget his past, Mike can’t resist uncovering the truth, but the truth comes with ugly ghosts from his past, the rescue of a wolf-dog, a near death experience, and a trip to a colony for sexual predators. In this novel Doiron returns to the story of Bowditch’s troubled relationship with his father and spent considerable time exploring his legacy as an outsider, which added depth to the story. I was terribly disappointed with the ending, however. It felt abrupt with many unresolved plot points, almost as if he had hit some page count and decided to just wrap it up in the most expedient (and easy) way possible. Just the same, an entertaining read from an author who has the ability to create life-like characters.
Tag Archives: Mike Bowditch
I’m a fan of mystery writer Paul Doiron and feel as if I discovered him (after all, I was one of the first to read his Edgar Award finalist novel The Poacher’s Son and recommend it to my mystery loving friends.) His latest work, The Precipice, takes us to the Hundred Mile Wilderness area of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Two young women have gone missing, so heroic game warden Mike Bowditch is called in to help with Search and Rescue, interrupting a romantic vacation planned with his new girlfriend, wildlife biologist, Stacey Stevens. During the search, Bowditch is teamed up with a legendary AT hiker “Nonstop” Nissen, who is fit but misantrhopic volunteer with a shady past. When the girls fail to turn up, it looks more and more doubtful they will be found alive. Meanwhile, those who encountered the girls along the trail are telling stories with varying degrees of relation to the truth. Tensions mount when their bodies are found at the bottom of a precipice, torn apart by wild coyotes. The townspeople and hikers spin out of control in a witch hunt to eradicate the coyotes, but meanwhile, Bowditch has his hunch it was human, not canine, that caused their deaths. The book comes to an exciting man hunt conclusion, rife with backwoods violence.
What I particularly enjoy in all of Doiron’s novels is the wild and terrible beauty of backwoods Maine. He paints a realistic scene of both the poverty, ignorance and squalor along with the natural landscape and breathtaking wilderness. The beauty of nature is often juxtaposed with the ugliness of life. In this story, his description of the life and culture of the Appalachian Trial day and thru-hikers is fascinating and a colorful backdrop. His treatment of the life of a game warden is handled well, especially when describing the frustration of working with FBI, local police and sheriff’s office during an investigation, illustrating the limitations of his powers. This story kept me guessing to the end (and not wanting to reveal any spoilers, I won’t elaborate.) I did not, however, feel as if the motivation for the perp was sufficiently explored. Also, Doiron has his fun with several misguided preachers in the story, casting them in a very poor light. Some of the tale hinges on the possible motive of a hate crime, when it is revealed that the “Bible student” girls were secretly lesbians. This part of the story feels a bit artificial and forced in order to play against the moral certitudes of these two-dimensional self righteous preachers. Another thing I felt was missing from the end of the story was the reaction of the parents. The girls both have powerful parents who fly into Maine to oversee the search efforts. We get a glimpse of them with the impression they will continue to cause problems for law enforcement, especially when it is revealed that the girls were a couple, but then they drop from the picture. Lastly, I did not enjoy the character of Stacey, Bowditch’s new love interest. I felt she was unnecessarily erratic, cold to the point of being cruel at times, and generally unloveable. It was hard to believe he would see anything in her.
Overall, as always, Doiron delivered a great story sprinkled through with beautiful descriptions of the Maine landscape.