For the past few years, my husband and I have made a concerted effort to be a family that goes away for week-long summer vacation. So we save up all year and spend the beginning of July in the sleepy Maine beach town my husband grew up going to as a child and teenager. I love it but each time we go I’m struck by how no matter how much we try to explore during each visit we can only scratch the surface of all the different aspects that make up the state. I want to get to know Maine beyond its southern coastal towns. So in an effort to get to know the state, I visit most often throughout the year I decided that I’d try to read as many books set in Maine by Maine authors as I could before our vacation in July.
The Poacher’s Son is the first in a series of mysteries set in Maine featuring game warden Mike Bowditch. Mike is in his early 20s and just settling into his first job after college as a game warden. One night, he receives an unexpected voicemail from his estranged father asking Mike for help. Soon after hearing from his father, Mike learns that his dad is being accused of ambushing and killing a local cop as well as a CEO of an industrial company that’s about to seize land from hundreds of local families. Shaken Mike puts his new career and all of his close relationships on the line as he races through the wilds of Northern Maine to prove his father’s innocence. Set throughout the dense forests of northern Maine, Mike teams up with a retired game warden sea-pilot to track down his father and unravel how he is tied up in this brutal crime.
I should disclose that straight up mystery novels are not a genre I often read. I ended up with Poacher’s Son because it was on “Read This!” shelf at my local bookstore as I was searching for a birthday present for my grandfather who LOVES mysteries. He really enjoyed it (yay me) and regifted it back to me as he was downsizing (sneaky grandad). So I picked it up one weekend and finished before Sunday was over. Dorion did an excellent job capturing the nature and general feel of Maine in the summer. I constantly want to know what the life of a year-round resident of Maine is like and Dorion shines at illuminating several intersections of Mainer culture. The friction between being “vacationland” and how it’s relationship to tourism and industry that is trying to privatize large swaths of the green space that makes up Maine’s interior. His way of describing the utter impenetrability of huge sections of Maine is spot on. If I read another book by Doiron it’ll be because of his way of capturing the feel of nature in this book.
Less strongly drawn is Mike. Or maybe he is perfectly captured and I just didn’t care for him, which I suspect is the case. Mike definitely comes across as a man in his early to mid-20s and spends most of the plot reacting (childishly in many cases) to other characters who are trying to look out for him and leaves much of the mystery solving to a retired game warden that befriends him during his search for his father. All of the women in the novel are split between a mother/whore/nag tropes that are fleshed out enough but still left a sour taste in my mouth by the end of the story. I’m going to skip talking about the mystery directly because I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s a serviceable one, good for a beach or weekend read. Pick this up if you’d like a hefty dose of a sense of place with your mysteries.