Paul Doiron’s fourth Mike Bowditch novel series begins as the Maine game warden is called to an unusual crime scene, a grisly killing ground containing the corpses of several moose. The authorities quickly adopt the theory that the crimes are meant as revenge against local land owner Elizabeth Morse, a wealthy animal rights activist whose efforts have cost many locals their jobs.
Although purposely kept on the edges of the case by his superiors, Bowditch finds himself intimately involved, putting him at odds with his commanders, and longtime pal Billy Cronk, who is considered a suspect. It also takes time away from his personal life, at a time when he can ill afford it. Despite this pressure, Bowditch pursues the leads he painstakingly uncovers, even as the ante is raised to include human targets.
Like Nevada Barr writing about Anne Pigeon, or C. J. Box writing about Joe Pickett, Doiron does a wonderful job of detailing the daunting combination of personal, professional, and political challenges faced by those who work to preserve and protect the nation’s natural resources. Bowditch is an extremely relatable protagonist, whose reactions to the trials and tribulations his creator throws at him are entirely believable. Doiron has also created a fascinating personal life for his hero—readers can see him changing as the series progresses, affected both by his human relationships and his experiences on the job. Besides focusing on his human cast, Doiron, the editor in chief of Down East magazine and a registered Maine guide, also takes great pains to bring Bowditch’s home state of Maine to vivid life.