Review: Paul Doiron – The Poacher’s Son

Every now and then I pick up a book that I have absolutely no expectations of whatsoever. I’ve not read any reviews, never heardThe Poacher's Son of the writer nor the book, and I’m reading it solely because of the novel’s premise. Of course this can be a mixed blessing as reading is such a subjective experience. However you can come across some gems this way and my latest find was The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron, a writer who I will be reading more of in the future.

Mike Bowditch is a game warden in Maine who returns home one evening to find a rambling message on his answer machine from his estranged father. Hard-drinking and violent, Jack Bowditch left Mike’s mother when he was small and despite a couple of attempts  by Mike to bond with his father, he now keeps a distance from the man who makes a living from illegal game poaching. However, when he discovers that Jack is on the run from the police, accused of shooting a local cop, Mike is torn between his instinctive loyalty to his father and the demands of his job. When it becomes clear that Jack is being set-up, Mike gambles his career and his life to discover the true versions of events.

I think this is the first book I’ve read set in Maine, a US state that I know little about and whose location I had to look up. However the setting was a major attraction of the book and like the novels of CJ Box and Nevada Barr, we see the landscape through the eyes of a professional worker. However, Mike Bowditch has an off-hand attitude towards his employment and his loyalty is stretched even further when familial ties prove strong. The book gave a persuasive portrayal of the complexity of relationships and how superficial alliances can hide deeper attachments.  All the characters were well drawn particularly Mike’s mother who has escaped from her trailer park upbringing and and is enjoying suburban life with her lawyer second-husband.

For a first novel, it was paced very well and with a genuine surprise towards the conclusion. It was also well written with an engaging narrative voice. A very accomplished début by Paul Doiron who I can see  has gone on to write two further books. Hopefully these we will see these published in the UK in the near future.

I received my copy of this book from the publisher, Constable and Robinson. Other reviews can be found at Raven Crime Reads and The Lighthearted Librarian. The author’s website is here.

25 thoughts on “Review: Paul Doiron – The Poacher’s Son

  1. Sarah, a lot of Stephen King’s fiction is set in Maine, although a lot of his themes are “supernatural” for want of a better description his portayal of the locale is probably accurate. He’s probably Maine’s most famous author.

    I’ve never heard of either this book or author, and it’s yet another addition to the “maybe one-day, if I had more time, more money- TBR wishlist.”

    It’s great though when you find a new author that gets you hooked – just don’t find too many this year!


    1. I hadn’t realised that about Stephen King’s books Colman. I don’t know them that well although I know people who absolutely love them. I’m almost inclined to read one to see his depictions of the state.


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – I know exactly what you mean about the setting. I too feel that way about Box, Barr and the late, great Tony HIllerman among some others. I’m glad that you enjoyed this one as much as you did. The relationship between father and son here reminds me of the father/son relationship in Roger Smith’s Dust Devils – same issue of people being on opposite sides of an issue, for instance. Yes, this is definitely one I’m going to look out for.


    1. Of course, Hillerman was a writer who incorporated the landscape so well into the stories. Thanks for reminding me Margot.. I haven’t read any Roger Smith although I know he comes highly recommended. I must give him a go.


  3. Sarah, an interesting premise for a novel about a son and his estranged father. Paul Doiron appears to have given some thought before weaving a story around the father-son relationship and giving it a twist that is both original and refreshing. Many thanks for the review.


  4. Sarah, because you had already mentioned this author, I looked at his latest book this morning at our wonderful independent bookstore that has a prime mystery collection. It looked good. And your review makes the first one sound worth a try. I think I would find the family relationships interesting. Family relationships have been on my mind as my mother gets older and my siblings and I get older too. Even though I am not estranged from my family, living across the country creates an entirely different relationship.


    1. I hadn’t realised that you were so far from your family, Tracy. There is plenty of food for thought in this book, and more I could have touched on but I didn’t want to give too much of the plot away. I’d be interested in seeing what you thought of his later books, the publisher has told ,e book 2 is out in the UK later this year.


  5. This one sounds interesting: thanks for your review, Sarah.

    The first thing I thought of when you mentioned crime novels set in Maine was that there must be a Nevada Barr book set in Acadia National Park. Apparently it’s coming out soon.


  6. kathy d.

    Maine is a glorious, beautiful place. I vacationed there several times in the 1970s. On Mount Desert Island, location of Acadia National Park, mountains interface with the ocean. One can climb a mountain in a few hours, sit and look out over Bar Harbor with its many coves and sailboats — while eating home-made green apple pie purchased in Southwest Harbor. It’s spectacular. And then there’s Baxter State Park, where Mount Katahdin, one of the U.S.’s highest peaks is located. Fishing on Moosehead Lake there was fun.
    There are various mysteries set there, in addition to Stephen King’s. I’ve read some over the years.
    Don’t forget the Jessica Fletcher series was set in Cabot Cove, Maine, a small town with an enormous number of murders.
    The Poacher’s Son was on my TBR list before I got into reading mainly global crime fiction. However, I’ll put it back on.


    1. Thanks Kathy. The beauty that you’ve mentioned in your comment comes across very strongly in the book. Doiron’s descriptions of the Canadian border just visible from the air above the State had me scurrying to an atlas to find out where Maine was on the map. So the Jessica Fletcher series was set in Maine was it? Well, I’d love to go there sometime after reading this.


  7. kathy d.

    And you can order fresh lobster dipped in butter at Beal’s Lobster Pier in SW Harbor on Mount Desert Island and sit and eat it, looking over the harbor. Or you can dine and stay at many coastal towns on the drive north to that beautiful island on Maine’s coast. A lot of writers have lived on private islands off Maine’s coast.


  8. kathy d.

    Sarah Graves writes a “Home Repair in Mystery” set in a Maine town; it’s a series. And Elizabeth Hand set her first series novel about a dope-taking woman photographer entitled “Generation Loss,” on an island off Maine’s coast. I liked that one although not the next one set in Iceland and Finland — no redeeming values as far as I’m concerned. But the first one was quite good.
    If you lived in my city, I’d show you Maine vacation photos, many set on hikes through state parks and on mountains. However, they were pre-digital cameras and email photos.


    1. I fancy reading Elizabeth Hand and the book is reasonable on Kindle at the moment. I think I’m going to download it. Thanks for the tip Kathy. I hope that one day we can meet and I’ll see those photos. I have in-laws near you although I haven’t visited them for ages. When I go on holiday I never fancy spending it with family 😉


  9. I was tempted to read CJ Box because of the number of positive mentions on crime blogs – I originally thought it wasn’t quite my thing, but ended up loving his books. This might be a similar case, you are very persuasive!


    1. I’ve reviewed one on this blog Kathy ‘Out of Range’ which I enjoyed a lot and I’ve picked through the series not in any order and enjoyed the ones I’ve read. I did read one that wasn’t a Joe Pickett book which I didn’t like so much so I would try out the series in the first instance.


  10. Pingback: The Best of January’s Reading « crimepieces

  11. Pingback: Review: THE POACHER’S SON by Paul Doiron | Reactions to Reading

  12. Pingback: Review: Elizabeth Hand – Generation Loss | crimepieces

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