Moose massacre in Maine
Game warden an unlikely detective
It isn’t often that a book publisher releases two novels by the same author just one week apart, but the marketing folks at Minotaur Books have chosen to do just that, offering a paperback version of one in the hope that doing so will stimulate reader
bad little falls by Paul Doiron ($14.99)
It isn’t often that a book publisher releases two novels by the same author just one week apart, but the marketing folks at Minotaur Books have chosen to do just that, offering a paperback version of one in the hope that doing so will stimulate reader interest in the other.
Bad Little Falls was originally published last year, and now it is back on the bookshelves in anticipation of the arrival of Massacre Pond.
Those of us who like nothing better than settling in with a really interesting murder mystery are accustomed to being intrigued by detectives, be they professional or amateur, who doggedly pursue the truth as they overcome the usual array of obstacles cleverly created by the author.
Paul Doiron’s principal character in the books, Mike Bowditch, is not actually a detective. He’s a game warden, and because he has had difficulties with his superiors, he’s been assigned to what is, to many, the least appealing part of Maine . . . the sparsely populated, poverty-stricken, drug-ridden Down East area this side of New Brunswick.
Bowditch, in short, is one of these characters who – like so many fictional detectives – seems to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. But, in Doiron’s capable hands, Bowditch’s wrongs are invariably the right thing if seen from a certain perspective, and they’re always done for a very good (if not-by-the-book) reason. That is, he is nobody’s fool.
His reputation follows him Down East and, in both novels, tends to impede his quest for the truth. In Bad River Falls, he’s hoping to solve a murder and deal with the apparent suicide of the prime suspect. Bowditch’s home – he lives in the woods – is vandalized more than once, and it’s clear he’s the target of individuals who don’t welcome his presence in their midst.
But, in a lapse of judgment, Bowditch develops a personal relationship with a woman who has “danger” written all over her. On top of that, she is a single mother with a deeply troubled young son who is surprisingly intelligent – he reads Stephen King novels – but prone to odd behavior, no doubt because he’s being raised in a totally dysfunctional family.
Bad Little Falls is a good read, but Massacre Pond (based loosely on a true story) is even better, although reading the former should augment the pleasure to be found in reading the second because Bowditch’s personality will be that much more familiar and therefore more understandable.
Massacre Falls begins with the discovery that 10 moose have been senselessly slaughtered on the sprawling estate of a rich and powerful woman who has many enemies and few friends, because, being an intense animal rights advocate, she is determined to establish a national park that, if she succeeds, would cost many of the locals their jobs. And there are not lots of other jobs in the area.
Bowditch and a friend discover the first seven moose corpses, but because the warden has such a poor relationship with his ambitious lieutenant, he is rudely shunted aside as the investigation is launched. On the surface, he has no choice but to accept this, but it doesn’t stop him from quietly conducting his own relentless search for the villains . . . or even from becoming friendly with the wealthy woman and her impetuous daughter.
Bowditch eventually suspects the friend of involvement in the massacre. There’s also a mysterious fatal car crash, a botched shooting that takes the life of one suspect while simultaneously revealing he was a child molester and, not surprisingly, the “triumphant” arrest of the wrong man by Bowditch’s colleagues.
The case has drawn so much attention, and the wealthy landowner has so much political clout, that there’s increasing pressure from the state Capitol to solve the crime quickly and that only increases the tension but does nothing to improve the quality of the investigation.
Doiron, the editor of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, is a graduate of Yale and earned his master’s in fine arts at Emerson College in Boston. He is also a registered Maine guide.
“I’m in love with Maine, and the interesting thing about my life is I get to celebrate the state in one regard with the magazine, and everything that I know about Maine that doesn’t really belong in Down East goes into my books,” Doiron once said in a newspaper interview.
His love for his home state enriches his storytelling. And in Bowditch he has created an endearing, if amiably flawed, character.