Thursday, June 3, 2010

a review of "The Poacher's Son" [40]

The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
(Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0-312-55846-8)

If you read my post Monday about key words that make me pick up a book, I must confess to missing one category. A book set in the New England states! Especially Maine.
So when I read an excellent review of this book on Rhapsody In Books' blog, realized it was set in Maine and was written by the editor-in-chief of one of my favorite magazines, Down East, well, I just had to get my hands on a copy. And I am very glad that I did.

The book introduces us to young Mike Bowditch, a fairly new Maine Game Warden. His territory is the mid-coast Knox county, but his formative years were spend in the wilder Northwoods of Maine. He lived there with his parents, in a state of what his mother called "downward mobility" until, when Mike was nine, his mother left, taking him along. She'd had enough of his father Jack's drinking, womanizing, fighting and any number of illegal ways of making a very poor living, including the poaching mentioned in the title, and left for the more civilized Portland. When Mike last saw his father a couple of years ago, having been newly accepted as a Game Warden, his father commented on what a strange job that was for a poacher's son. Actually, as we learn, it was not that strange, since both father and son share a love of the wilderness of Maine and descriptions of that love are one of several great elements of this book.

At it's heart, this is a mystery. Mike arrives home one evening to find a brief message on his answering machine from his father, who sounds quite upset. In the background he hears the voice of a woman talking to Jack...but then the ladies all loved Jack. When Mike finds out the next day that a police deputy and the vice president of a timber company were shot and killed after a very hostile meeting with the residents of the remote area where his father lives and that his father is the number one suspect, he understand the reason for the phone call. He and his father have a bit of a love/hate relationship, and while he knows his father can be violent and brutal when drunk, he can not believe that Jack is capable of a planned, cold blooded murder. Few, if anyone, share his conviction, especially when Jack escapes police custody, injuring a policeman and takes off for the woods. Innocent men don't run, everyone says.

Even if it may cost him the job he loves, Mike feels that he must head back up to the woods, deal again with some people he has less than fond memories of,  and try to prove his father's innocence. Happily, he does not have to go it alone but gains the assistance of a retired warden, Charley Stevens. Charley is the man Mike credits with his desire to become a game warden and a man who knows the woods almost as well as the fugitive Jack. And they are both going to needs every bit of knowledge and skill to get out of this alive.

It seems this this is the first in a new series with Game Warden Mike and I for one, am looking forward to the next already. The author has introduced some great characters that I certainly hope will be back, first among them Charley and his wife Ora. And while I had a few issues with Mike at first, (he broke my cardinal rule of doing several stupid things), by the book's end he seems to pull his wits together and started to grow on me. Even his on again/off again romance with his college sweetheart Sarah (she does not envision being married to a poorly paid warden and rather he go to law school) seemed to have a future. For all their flaws, and they do have some, every characters in the book is totally realistic in how they behave.

The book has an excellent plot, a fine cast of suspects and a thrilling, unexpected ending and is a fine mystery novel. But, to go back to my original point, about the setting, The Poacher's Son has something extra as well. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book are those wild Maine woods the author describes, a wilderness that Mike and Charley...and you...fear may well be disappearing, replaced with summer homes and housing developments. If you have visited the state, but hung close to the beautiful coast as many of us do, the inland wilderness is a very different place, but a place we get a small taste of in this book, a place with mile after mile of trees, mountains and countless beautiful lakes...and a very different way of life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it a strong recommendation.

My thanks to my local library for the loan of this book.


  1. Oh yes, I remember Jill's review of this one. She does have a knack for picking the good mystery series! I know you are also a tough customer with this genre, so your thumbs up means alot to me as well.

  2. This sounds like a good one, and this is the first I review I've read; thanks Caite/

  3. What a nice review you wrote of this one! I'm looking forward to it. The setting is a big draw for me as well.

  4. Great review. Glad you enjoyed the book, I just brought it home from the library.

  5. It's kind of hard to describe just how appealing the author makes that Maine wilderness sound, but I sure felt mesmerized with it while reading this book. I hope he continues to make it the *real* "main character" of his books while he continues the series!

  6. Me, too!

    I think I was destined to live in the New England states. Vermont... Stowe is my dream destination. (Even though my Utah home has way better skiing tee hee.)

  7. Sounds like a real find for you!! So now I know ... murder mysteries set in rainstorms near lighthouses in Maine!

  8. I'm going to a book signing at our local library here in Maine tomorrow to get my copy of this book signed by Paul Doiron. Loved it. Can't wait for the next installment. I'll try to get pictures.

  9. Tina, you are very lucky. BTW, I also just finished Linda Greenlaw latest book and see she is having some signings in your area.
    I am EXTREMELY jealous!

    also, you cane tell mr Doiron, if he does not have Charley and his wife in the next one...well there will be hell to pay. :-)

  10. Have you ever read The Beans of Egypt Maine by Carolyn Chute? It's quite a different take on residents of the state. I remember when the book came out, there was quite a write up in the Boston Globe about the author. You might find it interesting although there are no lighthouses in it that I remember.

  11. yesterday I went to a book signing party for this one. Since I already had an ARC, it was more to meet the author who lives just up the road. My 'interview' is posted on Tutu's Two Cents

    I'm so excited for him at his success. I also reviewed it way back in march and have been waiting and waiting for publication to see how it does. Looks like it's going to be a winner! HOORAY

  12. Kaye, no I have not read that. I will have to check it out, even without a lighthouse.

    Tina, lucky, lucky you! sounds like a great occasion.


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