The Bone Orchard
Mike Bowditch Mysteries #5
Minotaur Books, July 2014
With this, his fifth novel, Paul Doiron seems poised to join the few outstanding authors, headed IMHO by William Kent Krueger, who bring to vivid life the landscape, beauty and inhabitants (both the human and wildlife variety) of the northernmost parts of the United States, the states bordering Canada – – a lofty perch, to be sure. In this instance, that means Maine, ‘the most rural state in the country.’ The protagonist is Mike Bowditch, 27 years old and a former game warden [who in Maine have all the powers of state troopers], now working as a hunting and fishing guide in the North Woods. The book opens in a rainy month of May, when a tragedy has just taken place: Mike’s friend, Jimmy Gammon, scion of a powerful and politically connected family, not long after returning home from Afghanistan with horrific injuries, has been fatally shot in a “suicide by cop” scenario. To make matters worse, one of the two cops involved is Mike’s friend and mentor, Sgt. Kathy Frost.
In a state with the highest percentage of Afghanistan war vets in the nation, sympathies are decidedly against the cop, who says she acted in self-defense. When Mike goes to Kathy’s house to offer his support, he comes upon a scene where a sniper has shot Kathy as she exited her house, leaving her grievously wounded and clinging to life, and Mike himself is wounded when he interrupts the encounter. Mike, who has two such incidents in his past where he had no choice but to fire his weapon in self-defense with lethal results, is determined to track down the perpetrator.
Mike had served for 3 years as a game warden but had resigned his position two months earlier, a decision he second-guesses on nearly a daily basis. His former colleagues are wary of trusting him now, making his investigation that much more difficult. In a well-plotted tale, the author makes Mike a very human and conflicted protagonist, about whom the reader comes to feel great empathy. I loved the writing, e.g., “I’d never believed that our destinies are predetermined. If you look back on your life, you might see what looks like a meaningful progression, but it’s no different from gazing at the moon and seeing a man’s face. Just because you perceive a pattern doesn’t mean it’s really there.” The novel is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2015.