Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron is the third book in a series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch (available August 7, 2012).
Due to “administrative trouble,” Maine game warden Mike Bowditch has been reassigned. The truth of the matter is that he’s been exiled, to the northern edge of Maine, so far north that you can cross into Canada on a snowmobile. The town of Whitney is known for three things: rampant drug abuse, high unemployment, and poaching. To complicate things, he is instantly attracted to a local woman, Jamie Sewell, whose ex-boyfriend is the town drug dealer. When a blizzard hits and a half frozen man shows up at the door of one of the townspeople, it starts a hunt for the man’s missing friend. When the friend is found dead in a snowbank, Bowditch is caught up in the search for the killer. The fact that the dead man is the aforementioned drug dealer only makes the list of suspects longer, and the job of sifting through motives even more complicated.
The author opens with a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms:
I thought she was probably a little crazy. It was all right if she was.
I did not care what I was getting into.
It’s almost like Paul Doiron started with the quote and built his story around it. Mike Bowditch’s strange involvement with Jamie Sewell couldn’t be described better. He’s drawn to the woman and her beauty, even when he knows he should keep a professional distance, even when he realizes that she may be a suspect. Jamie has her own troubled past, which includes a strange son who keeps a journal full of grotesque drawings. Bowditch’s similarly messed up past seems to have made him susceptible to someone with so many problems. He seems to have a need to help her and her son that is separate from his physical attraction to her.
And then there’s the town of Whitney. Whenever I read a review that claims the location was so vivid, it was like a character in the book, I roll my eyes. After reading this book, however, I will never again think this cliché. I was amazed at how real the town felt to me. The author did an amazing job of portraying its isolation. He even brought to life the desperation of the people who call it home, making it very real and heartbreaking at the same time. These things drove the story and made the events that took place seem almost inevitable.
When you add a blizzard, the Washington County cold seems to seep into the pores of everything and everyone:
Because of the low-pressure front pushing down from Canada, the snow that was falling in the road was not wet, but in fact very dry. The wind whipped it around like white sand in a white desert, forming metamorphic dunes and ridges that changed shape while I watched. Dry snow carries its own dangers. It clings to nothing, not even itself, and is so light it can be stirred by the faintest breeze, turning a black night blindingly white. Weightless, it resists plowing and shoveling. It covers your tracks in the woods, making it easier for you to get lost, and because dry snow is the harbinger of subzero temperatures, it makes losing your way a potentially life-threatening mistake.
No book is complete without great characters, and Doiron doesn’t disappoint. I couldn’t help but like Bowditch, troubled though he was. He accepts the circumstances of his life that have brought him to where he is, and embraces rather than fights what is set in front of him. This was a great read, and I recommend having a mug of hot chocolate and a blanket nearby.
Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.
See all of Kerry Hammond’s posts on Criminal Element.