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by Paul Doiron
Minotaur Books, July 2013
320 pages
ISBN: 1250033934

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the fourth of the Mike Bowditch novels by Paul Doiron, and it's the one in which Mike grows up. Throughout the series, Mike has been struggling to figure himself out, and the reader has been carried along with the search. In MASSACRE POND, he continues to struggle with his role as a game warden in rural Maine and feels his outsider status acutely.

At the start, Mike is called by a previous foe who has become something of a friend, Billy Cronk, to investigate the killing of a large number of moose inside the gates of a huge landholding owned by a rich ex-hippie, "Queen Elizabeth" Morse. Morse has bought up as much of Maine's timberland as she could to create a new national park and, in the process, has made enemies of the surrounding loggers and hunters (which comprise just about all the humans in the area). As the extent of the moose carnage becomes apparent, Morse throws her money and clout behind the search for the killers.

Although the case should be Mike's – it occurred in his territory and he was first on the scene – he is sidelined by a political move of a superior. He spends his time around the periphery of the case, learning more about Morse and conducting his own investigation into aspects of the case that are being ignored by the powers that be in their efforts to bring the case to a quick conclusion. He becomes something of a confidante to Morse and her daughter, Briar, and this adds to his questioning the suitability of his game warden job.

Mike continues his friendship with the pilot, Charley, and attempts to deal with the disappointment of having Charley's daughter, Stacey, engaged to a local lumber mill owner. As the case wears on, Mike learns that his distant mother has cancer, and this serves to pull him back into his family both physically and emotionally. There is much weighing on Mike's mind in MASSACRE POND, and his struggles with whether to stay in his job are complicated by it all. In the end, his previous boss, Kathy Frost, reappears and provides the reader with hope that Mike's game warden days are not over.

Doiron's skills continue to develop as he writes this series. MASSACRE POND is very well structured to allow a new reader to jump into the series while not boring a returning reader. Rather than spending the first part of the book recapping the past, as so many series authors do, Doiron skillfully weaves background information into the narrative of the book as needed. His writing about the Maine forest is glorious. "The last minutes of daylight are my second-favorite time to be in the woods…(b)ut at dusk, the shadows move. The sun sinks down into the treetops and then slides along the trunks until you are only catching furtive glimpses of it through the understory…" I read the two paragraphs (p. 204) that comprise this description of dawn and dusk in the forest a dozen times, to revel in both the beauty of the language and in the sensations evoked.

I am so looking forward to book five!

§ Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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