I received an advance reader copy of this book after winning a drawing at Goodreads.
Those of us who have faithfully followed the exploits of Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch usually know what to expect. Author Paul Doiron teased the story over the winter a bit on his author page. I thought I had a good idea of what this was about and what would happen.
Boy was I wrong.
Mike Bowditch is having a bit of a crisis in his personal life. His sometimes girlfriend, State Trooper Dani Tate, is in line for a new job that will separate them even more than they are now. It’s Christmas and she wants to spend it with her mother. Mike is deliberating between that and visiting his close friends Charlie and Ora, but their daughter (and his former girlfriend) Stacey has come home, setting up a possibly very uncomfortable holiday there.
Against this backdrop, as he tries to think through everything and make a decision, he receives a letter from a rather well-to-do Maine resident who thinks the investigation into her father-in-law’s death was botched by his fellow wardens. She cast the right bait and Mike decides to have a conversation with her when he has to take his wolf-dog, Shadow, to the vet for a checkup.
Later that same day, his Warden vehicle is sabotaged and sent to the bottom of the river. Mike and Shadow survive but are being hunted down for a reason he’s not entirely clear about. In Maine in December, surviving a stormy night is not an easy thing to do, even when you aren’t being stalked.
The novel changes the point of view in each chapter, from the build-up to the crash, to Mike trying to survive afterward. This works very well as it keeps the tension high without giving it all away at the beginning of the book. Mike’s investigation and personal revelations take on a different meaning when viewed from survival mode. The pace is good, keeping the tension high and the reader guessing until the end.
Although Dead by Dawn can be read without having read previous novels in the series, it’s much better to know Mike’s back story and the details of his past experiences, both as a game warden and in his personal life. Some of it does come back into play here.
When rating this on Goodreads, I gave it four stars. The only detraction was that Mike does come off as something of a superhero with how much he goes through without so much as breaking a bone. He reminds me a lot of the fallible character of Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s novels, as both are driven by a need for justice and learning the truth, but their methods might make you shake your head sometimes. Bowditch had great depth after twelve novels, but I think he needs to suffer some human consequences.
I did love Dead by Dawn and read it in about 3 days. I do believe it’s the best of the series in terms of action and tension. The pacing is great. If you want more depth to Maine Game Wardens than what you see on North Woods Law reruns, this is a great book.