I’ve always enjoyed books and movies that take me to familiar places. That was easy when I lived in New York. Not so easy anymore, until some of my geocaching friends introduced me to author Paul Doiron’s books.
This is his first in the series about Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch. Mike is a good Game Warden, but is sort of on the outside looking in with a lot of his colleagues, save a few. One of the points of contention is his father, who is a man on the fringes of society. He’s been on the Game Warden Service’s radar for a long time as a known poacher.
Mike and his father are estranged. He’s only seen him a few times since his parents split up. One day he arrives home to a cryptic message on his answering machine from his father, followed by a call the next morning from the police. His father is suspected of murdering a police officer and has disappeared.
The Poacher’s Son is a great way to begin a series. With the main character of the series dealing with issues surrounding his father, it allows the character to have a lot of development in this first novel without feeling like overkill. At the same time, it’s quite suspenseful and had me guessing as to the truth to the end. Not many novels do that – I’m usually pretty good at figuring out what’s going on.
Doiron does a great job crafting the central character and the conflicts he faces while keeping the reader guessing. As Mike tried to find the real killer, he seems to be fighting against the tide of police officers and his own Warden Service. He’s painted as a bit of a “Lone Wolf” and this isolation he feels among his fellow law enforcement drives it home. He has a few people backing him and helping him who are still objective about the situation but want to cut him a break. These people will be recurring characters in the series.
The Maine woods are well depicted here. I’ve been in the area the book is set in and could imagine it well, although I sometimes looked at a map to get a better grasp. If you’ve never lived outside a city, it can be hard to grasp just how desolate a place can be when you’re surrounded by life. The forest is alive in many ways, but you’ve never felt more alone.
I was a fan of North Woods Law before I began this series, so I can tell Doiron did his research. There are things that feel very familiar in his depiction of the Warden Service and what they face as law enforcement that doesn’t seem to get the same respect Police and Sheriff’s departments do. Even around here, they’re called “Fish Cops” as if their job isn’t quite as dangerous. It very much is, and Doiron captures that here as he describes several encounters.
If you enjoy books about the outdoors as well as a good thriller. I recommend The Poacher’s Son. It’s a great start to this series.
Next book in the series (link):