The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron

Move over Anna Pigeon, there’s a new guy in town.  Actually, he’s in Maine and he’s a Game Warden rather than a Park Ranger, but Mike Bowditch shares Anna’s loner tendencies and love of nature.  One evening, while Mike is out responding to a call, his father leaves a strange message on his answering machine.  As Mike hasn’t heard from his dear old dad for a few years, he’s puzzled and somewhat alarmed – whatever his estranged father called about is likely to be unwelcome news.  The next morning he discovers that his dad, a jail cell regular, is the prime suspect in a double-homicide.  Mike knows that his dad is a hard-drinker, a poacher, and a brawler – but he doesn’t believe that he’s a murderer.  His belief in his father’s innocence raises plenty of hackles in the community – only one man, a retired Game Warden, agrees that Jack Bowditch doesn’t seem likely to murder someone over the sale of land to a developer – he’s used to moving from place to place and isn’t the sort to care about what happens to anyone else.  Together Mike and Charley venture into the wilds of Maine to find Jack before someone else does.

I really enjoyed this book.  Doiron deliberately sets a slow pace, interspersing Mike’s memories of his father with the search to find him today, giving readers a vivid picture of two flawed men and making us wonder about the bonds between us that refuse to let us go.  Like the Anna Pigeon novels, this first book in the Mike Bowditch series creates a strong sense of place.  The mystery is solid and I love the fact that I didn’t see the ending coming but it made perfect sense, looking back.

I have to admit that I didn’t quite understand some of Mike’s choices – it seems like a phonecall here and there might have lessened the potential fallout from his quest to prove his father’s innocence – but I was able to go with it.  I had hoped that a certain part of the backstory would play more of a part in the overall scheme of things but c’est la vie.

Looking forward to Trespasser!

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