I was excited to see that Paul Doiron had written a second book featuring his Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. His first book, The Poacher’s Son (see my review, here) received numerous award nominations in 2010, including the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, the Thriller Award, and the Maine Literary Award. I was disappointed with this new one, however.
Bowditch, age 25, is called to the scene when a young woman hits a deer and crashes her car on a foggy road. When he arrives, both the deer and the woman are missing. A state trooper finally comes and says he will take over processing the scene; Bowditch leaves reluctantly, convinced there has been some foul play. Later, he finds the woman’s body; she has been raped, brutalized, and asphyxiated in a way remarkably similar to a crime committed seven years earlier.
Homicide having been established, the state police get jurisdiction, and Bowditch is told to stay away from the investigation. But of course he can’t, and once again, he jeopardizes his relationship with his girlfriend and his colleagues by obsessing over solving the crime and by taking matters into his own hands.
Discussion: I like featuring a game warden as the investigator in a crime novel. In Maine, game wardens have all the law enforcement powers and responsibilities as do state police troopers. In addition, however, they have the more unusual duties common to game wardens, such as going after game poachers, policing ATV and snowmobile use, and rescuing hikers. This adds a built-in source of interesting side issues to provide relief from the tension of the main plot line. In the first book, the author focused more on the landscape and wildlife; in this one, the problem is good-old-boy ATV’ers, which made – for me – a much less appealing side story. Plus, there are numerous references to the plot of the first book, but no full explanations. If I had not read it, I would have felt very frustrated. My final objection is that, in spite of all the plot twists and turns, the “whodunnit” was pretty darn obvious.
Evaluation: I like the concept behind this book, and am hoping that the third in the series will return to the clarity and emphasis on nature that made the first book such a standout.
Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan, 2011