"Bad Little Falls" (Minotaur Books), by Paul Doiron
Maine game warden Mike Bowditch should have learned by now that he needs to mind his own business.
His inability to do so in "The Poacher's Son" (2010) and "Trespasser" (2011) has left both his personal and his professional life in tatters. His superiors, and just about everyone else in Maine law enforcement, consider him a hotheaded, arrogant loose cannon. The woman he loves has left him, taking their baby son with her. And, as his new adventure, "Bad Little Falls," opens, he's been banished to an assignment in Down East, Maine.
"All that was left to me," he says, "was to accept my fate and do my job with as much dignity as I could muster."
But because of Mike's inherent curiosity, nose for trouble and passion for justice, there's no way that's going to happen.
As the tale opens, a man half-dead with frostbite shows up at the door of a remote cottage at the height of a fierce blizzard. Then the man's running buddy is found frozen in a nearby snowbank. Authorities soon discover that he had been beaten and deliberately suffocated.
Mike's duties as game warden don't include investigating murders, and his boss warns him to butt out. But as the story unfolds, he falls hard for the comely sister of the surviving victim and is drawn into the life of her son, a strange boy who writes bizarre passages, some of them in code, in a secret journal.
Convinced the police are about to pin the murder on his new girlfriend's brother, he reluctantly jumps into the case.
Along the way, he encounters a host of other intriguing, well-drawn characters, including an aging veterinarian, an "Earth-first" activist, a feisty local woman police chief and the nefarious owner of a hunting camp.
The plot is riveting, but as always in a Paul Doiron novel, the greatest attraction is the stark beauty of the language and the vivid portrayal of his native Maine. He describes drug-riddled, poverty-stricken Down East — a region of fast-moving streams, frozen lakes, ice-fishing shacks and forbidding bogs — so precisely that you'll feel the below-freezing temperatures in your bones.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of "Cliff Walk" and "Rogue Island."