This is the sixth book in Doiron’s crime series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. (In Maine, game wardens are full law-enforcement officers, with all the powers of state troopers: “They are the ‘off-road police.’”)
Mike, 28, has been a game warden for four years, and has been dating Stacy Stevens, the daughter of his old friend and mentor Charley, for four months as this book begins. While on small vacation with Stacy, Mike gets word he needs to head up to the the Hundred Mile Wilderness to help search for two missing women. Stacy, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, decides to join in the search party that also includes the Warden Service, the state police, and the FBI.
No one believes the women will be found alive; the question is, if and when they do find them, what happened to them?
Discussion: Doiron is the former editor of Down East Magazine, a Registered Maine Guide, and someone who clearly loves the Maine wilderness. Much of the narrative is interspersed with descriptions of its beauty, and informative background information. For example, at one point, they come across a sugar maple that had been hit by lightning:
“When lightning strikes a tree, the electricity travels through the sap, and the superheated liquid explodes the living plant from within.”
We learn about Thoreau’s expeditions in Maine as well – who knew he left Walden Pond?
And always, there are passages of pure appreciation for the beauty of Maine:
“The sun hadn’t yet cleared the hills in the east, but the sky above the lake was streaked wth pink and gold, and there wasn’t a breath of wind to stir the leaves of the maples. The lake, visible between the sleeping houses, was as flat and blue as stained glass.”
I’m sorry to say I didn’t even know about Gulf Hagas, a stunning gorge located in the mountains of central Maine and known as “the Grand Canyon of the East.”
But as beautiful as the scenery is, there is a lot of ugliness in the wilderness too. As Stacy points out, “People want to believe in big bad wolves. But only humans can be truly evil.”
Mike, Stacey, and their colleagues encounter plenty of evil in their quest to find out the fate of the girls. As Stacey’s dad Charley said of one suspect, “That man is the most unusual specimen of God’s carelessness I ever came across.”
Evaluation: As with Doiron’s previous books, there is so much more than just a crime story in his writing. There is excellent background information on Maine and on what it means to work as a warden there, and a lot of philosophical contemplation. It is not necessary to have read the previous books, but as with any series, the story is more meaningful if you start it from the beginning.
Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, 2015