This is the third entry in the series that follows n’er do-well Maine Game Warden, Mike Bowditch. He’s not a bad guy, but he has a history of making bad decisions that untimately impact his career. He’s also a bit of a rule-breaker who follows his instincts, although they don’t always serve him well.
His superiors are tired of dealing with him, and at the bginning of Bad Little Falls, Bowditch has been exiled to an area of Maine known as Downeast Maine. You’d think that would mean it’s down and east, but it really isn’t. It’s part of the coast that is the furthest north and closest to the Canadian border. It’s very sparsely populated, meaning (hopefully) Bowditch can’t find too much trouble to get into there.
Of course, where would the story be if that happened? Bowditch is called by a local couple after a man appears at their door claiming that his friend is lost in a blizzard. There’s more to the story than that, as it soon turns into a murder investigation of a well-known area drug dealer. Complicating the story is the fact that Mike has managed to fall into a sexual relationship with a beautiful native to the area, who also has a young son who seems to know something about what happened.
This area of Maine is a good day’s drive from where I live, but the setting is familiar. Like many small New England towns, the locals know each other and don’t get into each other’s business, much. It’s an area that has lost a lot of its industry and most of the residents live in poverty or just on the edge. No one wants to talk about the murder, and it seems like everyone just feels he had it coming and who cares? If this were the West, it would fall under the term “frontier justice.”
However, Bowditch won’t let it go. He keeps plugging along, following leads that don’t always pan out. This keeps the story very compelling as I felt like I was investigating along with him. At the same time, he makes mistakes that, once again, call into question his judgment with his superiors.
The story is complicated so it doesn’t quite fall under “light reading.” I think some familiarity with the area helped me quite a bit. There are characters who appear and disappear who have a consequence later on. Enough of the people are familiar, though, that it’s easier to have read the first two novels in the series before attempting this. Besides Mike, there’s his former supervisor, Kathy, and her dog as well as retired Warden pilot Charley Stevens. Charley in particular seems to be the only person on his side during all this, possibly because he sees Mike as something of a reflection of himself.
I really enjoyed Bad Little Falls despite a somewhat depressing setting. If you travel to Maine and don’t look at what is happening behind the scenes; you don’t want your image of forests and fall leaves, and beautiful coast tempered by what it’s really like for many of the people who live there, the book can be a hard read. If you are someone who approaches life with your eyes open and takes in all of it – good and bad – I think you’ll enjoy it more. The mystery is well carved out and Doiron’s characters are always well-rounded. I loved it and can’t wait for the next one!