Review of “Hatchet Island” by Paul Doiron 

This is the 13th book in Doiron’s crime series featuring former Maine game warden and now warden investigator, 32-year-old Mike Bowditch. (In Maine, game wardens are full law-enforcement officers, with all the powers of state troopers: “They are the ‘off-road police.’” A warden investigator, on the other hand, is “for all intents and purposes a plainclothes detective.”)

This book begins with Mike and Stacey Stevens, now back together again after two years apart, heading out in canoes for a camping trip. They decided to take a detour to Baker Island, a seabird research station off the coast, after Stacey received a call for help from Kendra, her college roommate and fellow intern on Baker Island. Coming ashore, they learned that not only the puffin population was in danger, but the biologists as well. They were being threatened by local lobstermen and harassed by unknown assailants. Moreover, the head of the facility, Maeve McLeary, seemed to be falling apart and had become quite unpredictable. She had taken off to parts unknown, and they were worried.

After talking to the biologists – Kendra along with Hillary and Garrett, they left to sleep on a nearby islet, but were awakened by gunshots. When they returned to Baker, they discovered the gruesome murders of two of the researchers, and the third one missing. Mike and Stacey called in the Marine Patrol and the state police, and began their own investigation. They not only unlocked the secrets to what was happening on the island currently, but what had happened in the past to lead to this awful moment.

Discussion: I love learning more about the biology of Maine from Doiron’s books. He excels at evoking the sights, sounds, and even smells of the area, as in these passages when Mike and Stacey set out on their canoes. No Maine tourism guide could be as compelling:

“The sea was a sheet of hammered platinum. Every stir of my paddle brought the fecund smell of the ocean into my nose and mouth. It was as if I could taste the teeming life in the depths: the phytoplankton and the zooplankton, the oyster beds, the shoals of mackerel, and the deep-diving seals. The sensory stimulation left me feeling intoxicated.”

“The sea was a chameleon; it changed color as the mist lifted. It had been a leaden gray when we’d pushed off from the boat launch. Now in the fullness of the sunlight, the water above the shoals was transmuted, as if by alchemy, from metal into turquoise. Out in the open ocean, it changed again, becoming as hard and blue as sapphire.”

On Baker Island:

“Above the island, a living storm was raging. White shapes spiraled skyward like pieces of paper blown aloft, and from the cloud of seabirds came a cacophony of barks, shrieks, cackles, and screams. Half a dozen species giving voice to their alien, unknowable emotions.”

Evaluation: The crimes in Doiron’s books can be complicated, but they hold your attention. I always look forward to more stories in the series.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, 2022

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