Paul Doiron hits the ground running with The Poacher’s Son

June 26, 2010 at 11:31 am (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

Here is a mystery that centers on the eternally mysterious relationship between  father and son. Mike Bowditch is a game warden; his patch is rural Maine, where he was born and grew up. He’s good at his job and loves it, but his personal life is uneasy. Much of the trouble stems from his relationship with his father. Jack Bowditch is a difficult man to like, much less love. He’s a brawler and a drinker who gets by as a poacher of illegal game. His performance as a parent has left much to be desired.

But Mike refuses to give up on this wayward man. When Jack is accused of murder and goes on the lam, making a bad situation worse, his son springs to his defense. Things immediately go from bad to worse. Mike places the job he loves in jeopardy by mounting his own search for his father, in defiance of both police orders and those of his own commanding officer in the warden’s service. But he will not desist. His belief in his father’s innocence is firm and unshaken.

Many are the pleasures on offer in The Poacher’s Son. Mike Bowditch is beset by unresolved doubts and conflicting emotions; nevertheless, he’s an enormously appealing character, a young man still working to define himself and his life’s purpose. His struggle has been made more arduous by a difficult childhood, spent around adults who, for the most part, did not serve his needs well.

But respecting one thing Mike Bowditch feels no ambivalence: his feelings for his native state are fierce and uncompromising. He loves it for its wildness and its beauty, and it hurts him to see those qualities heedlessly endangered. When flying over the territory in a small plane, this is what he observes:

‘To the south I saw the muddy coils of the Segocket River and my own little tidal creek. I glimpsed the Square Deal Diner and the Sennebec Market. But what really struck me from above, was all the new development–whole neighborhoods being carved out of wooded hilltops, luxury houses sprouting up in lawns of mud. It was a domesticated landscape, growing even more so, and the thought of a few fugitive bears hiding out along the ridgetops and the remaining cedar hollows filled me with a melancholy ambivalence.

(Segocket, Sennebec – I love the sound of those place names.)

Lately I’ve been passing through a sort of Slough of Despond where crime fiction is concerned, abandoning one after another highly touted books that weren’t working for me and, more depressing still, books by favorite authors that were not holding my interest. (Most shockingly, this recently happened with Reginald Hill’s Midnight Fugue. Could it have been my mood? Still, my respect and liking for the author of the Dalziel and Pascoe series remains undimmed, and I plan to give Fugue a second try.)  The Poacher’s Son pulled me right out of that slough, making me want to shout from the roof tops: What a terrific novel!

Paul Doiron – pronounced “Dwarren,” as he graciously informed me via e-mail – is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine. He is also a guide for fly fishing trips, although he informs us on his website that he is currently too busy to perform that particular function. One of the reasons his time is so taken up at present is that he is working on the next Mike Bowditch novel. Wonderful news – I plan to be first in line to get my copy.

In sum: great writing, fully rounded characters,a marvelous sense of place, a compelling plot that throws curves the reader’s way at unexpected junctures, The Poacher’s Son – a first novel, mirabile dictu! – is a work of outstanding quality.

Paul Doiron


  1. Kay said,

    I’m glad you highlighted this book, Roberta. I have a signed copy that I received from the Poisoned Pen Bookstore and I’m excited to be reading it later this year. I’m not sure I’ve read any books set in the Maine woods except for Stephen King’s. LOL Thanks for all the good info!

    • Roberta Rood said,

      You are most welcome, Kay. and you have much to look forward to in The Poacher’s Son!

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