This is the fourth novel in author Paul Doiron’s series about Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch. Mike skirts the edges on the rules of being a Game Warden and the orders of his superiors, giving him a sort of “lone wolf” dynamic.
In Massacre Pond, Mike is called to investigate the discovery of several poached moose carcasses on the grounds of a wealthy resident of the North Maine woods, Elizabeth Morse. Morse has been buying up prime timberland in an attempt to create another National Park for Maine. At first, the crime seems to be done in retribution for job losses created among the locals by Elizabeth’s actions. However, as in most cases, there’s more going on here than it seems.
Called in by his friend, Billy Cronk, who has been acting as a caretaker of sorts, Mike takes an interest in the case even after being all but taken off the case due to the possible political nature of the crime. His superiors want the cameras on them, not him, and they want to curry the favor of Elizabeth Morse. He stays mostly on their good side during this investigation, but there’s always a hint that he’s treading a dangerous line and could lose his job. It also seems more like trouble just finds him, rather than more like he’s going looking for it. He’s also growing a bit more and it seems like he’s giving in less to his impulses. When the investigation starts focusing more on Cronk, Mike can’t let it go.
On the personal side, he’s still got an eye on Stacy, the daughter of his close friend (and former game warden) Charley Stevens. Stacy, however, is engaged to a timber magnate who may or may not be involved in what’s going on. This creates many conflicts for Mike and he’s not sure of his motivation at times.
I enjoyed the pace of the book quite a bit. It wasn’t a breakneck thriller, but rather involved the slow uncovering of clues the way most investigations happen. At first, it seems a little slow, as we’re getting introduced to characters and where recurring characters are in their life, but the payoff is good.
One of the things that are interesting is how this mirrors the efforts of Burts Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby in Maine. The land she purchased became Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. There was a lot of pushback to her plan by locals and the timber industry, although nothing like the mystery we see in Massacre Pond.
I have really enjoyed all of Paul Doiron’s books. He began writing these long before North Woods Law was on the air, although I think that show helped people not from the area get a picture of what it’s like for Mike, at least from a patrol perspective. The backdoor politics happens at all jobs, although likely not to the extent in the Maine Game Warden Service that Doiron uses to create conflict for Mike.
If you want a fun summer read with a good mystery, Massacre Pond is worth picking up. The characters are multi-dimensional and the story is not predictable. Doiron kept me guessing all the way to the end as to who was behind the crimes. I can’t ask for anything more than an enjoyable read where I can’t wait to find out what happens.