The Bone Orchard is the fifth book in a series by Paul Doiron featuring the character of Mike Bowditch. For the first four books, Mike was a Maine Game Warden. If you’ve watched the show North Woods Law you’ll have an idea what that is, although Doiron’s books began being published before that show was a thing. At the end of the previous book, Massacre Pond, Mike made the decision to leave the Warden Service under pressure from higher-ups.
The Bone Orchard opens with Mike working as a freelance fishing guide and occasional caretaker while he tries to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. His former mentor at the Warden Service, Kathy Frost, is caught up in an apparent “suicide by cop.” She finds herself placed on leave as the family of this former veteran demands an inquiry. Mike knew the victim, Jimmy Gammon, before he was deployed to Afghanistan so he takes it upon himself to start poking around and asking questions. Unfortunately, he’s stymied by the fact that he’s no longer a part of any law enforcement.
Mike is not one to take “no” for an answer or back off even when that would be the easiest path to take. He arrives at Kathy’s house one night only to find himself being shot at. He also discovers a seriously wounded Kathy Frost and the body of her K9 dog and companion. It would seem someone set out to avenge Jimmy Gammon.
This is a great read. By taking a respite from Mike working for the warden service we get to see him floundering a bit as he tries to figure out what his next move will be. The character gets to reflect and ultimately grow as he works on the mystery. He asks the hard questions, not only of others but also of himself. Doiron writes him well, making him human and fallible but also determined to do right by Kathy. By quitting the Warden Service, he feels as if he’s let her down.
The field of suspects of who might have tried to kill Kathy isn’t a simple list, either. Although everyone seems to think it’s related to Jimmy Gammon, it could be any one of several other possibilities. He learns more about Kathy and her life outside of the Warden Service as he investigates as well. It kept me guessing all the way through as I read.
I’ve been all over the State of Maine, and the descriptions in Doiron’s books are so real. He captures what it’s like to be in the forests of Maine, right down to the smells of pine and peat. I could feel like I was standing right there at times and he bring the settings alive. I can also usually figure out what areas he’s setting the mystery in. Here we get a juxtaposition between the wilderness where Mike works as a guide, the more settled area where Kathy lives, and the small city that is Portland. Having spent a good deal of time last year in Maine Medical Center, I sympathized completely with Kathy there.
Although this is the fifth book in the series, I think it stands on its own pretty well. You could pick up the series here and not be lost. However, if you want to see the character of Mike Bowditch evolve over the course of the series, I would start at the beginning. His overall character development and the changes over time are well-done and make for an enjoyable read over time. The Bone Orchard is a great mystery with interesting characters and a very realistic feel. I highly recommend it.
Previous book in the series (link): Massacre Pond
Categories: Book Reviews, Paul Doiron
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