Title: The Poacher’s Son
Author: Paul Doiron
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: Nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel
Where I Obtained the Book: I got it at my local library
Synopsis: Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive---his own father.
Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father, Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: They are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before---and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty.
Now, alienated from the woman he loves, shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand Jack’s brutality, but is the man capable of murder? Desperate and alone, Mike strikes up an uneasy alliance with a retired warden pilot, and together the two men journey deep into the Maine wilderness in search of a runaway fugitive. There they meet a beautiful woman who claims to be Jack’s mistress but who seems to be guarding a more dangerous secret. The only way for Mike to save his father now is to find the real killer---which could mean putting everyone he loves in the line of fire.
Review: A brilliant first novel which is a solid mystery, but more importantly it is a story of realistic human emotion. My struggles with a lot of contemporary American mystery is its focus on over the top crimes (think serial killers), and the “brilliant” criminal who insists they are smarter than the cops and thus they must toy with them. Mostly it is overhyped bullshit with no basis in reality.
The Poacher’s Son pits a recent small town Game Warden just trying to do his job, a job that he loves. The job is the antithesis of his estranged father, a woodsman and poacher extraordinaire. Having chosen their corners, they seem content living their lives apart. That is until an ambiguous phone message from his father, right before he goes into hiding. Suspected of killing a local police officer everyone is out to get his father; but in his heart he still believes in his dad’s innocence.
What do we owe our family, especially when they are a pretty despicable person to begin with? This story dives right into the deep end of stressed family relationships and builds to a tight conclusion; wherein we the reader gain insight and growth along with our protagonist. This book is what a mystery should be, and it is an opportunity to jump on the band wagon before it has left the station.
Author Biography: Paul Doiron is the author of the Mike Bowditch series of crime novels, including THE POACHER'S SON, nominated for a 2011 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and the forthcoming TRESPASSER. He is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, Down East Books, and DownEast.com. A native of Maine, he attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English, and he holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. Paul is a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and outdoor recreation and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine.
FYI: Video Review from Capitol Area District Library