Book: Massacre Pond by Paul Doiron (Review of Audio book by MacMillan)
Mysteries tend to begin with corpses. In Massacre Pond (Mike Bowditch Mystery), the corpses are moose bodies, not killed by legitimate hunters for food. So why were they slaughtered and by whom? Mike Bowditch , in the fourth of a series featuring this Maine Game Warden , discoveres five dead moose one night on the property of Elizabeth Morse, the richest woman in the state. Before the killer or killers can be found, the investigators are faced with five more dead moose, vandalism, a human murder and other eerie happenings that you might not have thought to associate with a game warden.
Doiron, who is a Maine registered guide, wants you to understand that Maine game wardens are every bit the law enforcers that state patrolmen are. Their duties encompass much more than nabbing out-of-season hunters or fishermen who take out more than the limit. He dedicates a page to explaining the law and the role of the Wardens at his web site. He also includes a real map that pinpoints all his previous book’s locales, both real and imagined, which is handy for the traveler who reads and would like to track the characters of a book he’s read.
Because Doiron lives and acts as a guide along the coast of Maine, he knows the territory intimately. He introduces both real and fictional places to us with a poetic touch. A fine writer, he also creates an assortment of interesting characters from the icky backwoodsmen who work at the lumber mill to the wealthy woman whose estate is the centerpiece of the novel.
Elizabeth Morse started out as a hippy and still has a few scruffy pot-smoking holdouts among her retinue. But she developed a line of herbal medicines and raked in the money, buying up land and building a mansion on a lake where she lives with maximum security. The security is necessary because she has riled the locals by proposing to turn her land into a National Park, thus taking it out of use by hunters.
Bowditch’s bosses don’t like his streak of independence and relegate him to counting shell casings in neighboring quarries instead of front and center investigating. Morse is attracted to his independent streak and calls him her “truth teller.” But their relationship is not any smoother than any of his other interactions. In fact Massacre Pond is packed with the problems caused by people misjudging each other, illustrated by the legend of the namesake Massacre Pond.
Like any modern hero of a mystery novel, Bowditch is weighed down with personal concerns and guilt. An old romance and his concern for the health of his mother he has pretty much ignored seem added just to show his personal side. Although they serve a general theme of human failing, they seem like the puzzle piece that almost but not quite fits.
I listened to the book on audio, and would give the reader a ‘B-‘ He apparently picked up on a phrase late in the book that describes Bowditch as sarcastic and applied a sarcastic tone to nearly every line he read–whether Bowditch or another character. I also was not convinced that all these old Maines residents spoke with a down-East accent. Nevertheless, he differentiated characters well, which is the toughest job a reader has, so maybe I should bump that grade up to a B+.
Maine is a gorgeous state to visit, particularly if you’re the kind of traveler who prefers to stick to the woods instead of the city, and your idea of nightlife is star gazing. We drove across a bit of the northern part of Maine and loved its unpopulated natural woods and lakes.
Massacre Pond is the fourth in a series featuring Mike Bowditch, Maine Game Warden, and if you’re an outdoors man or woman, you’ll no doubt want to read them all. While I enjoy the outdoors, this book just did not ignite a passion in me, despite its lovely descriptive passages. No question, if you are a traveler who wants to know more about the Maine woods, this is the series for you.
Note: Macmillan sent me the audio book for review. Receiving review copies does not carry any obligation, and my opinions are always my own.Photos are used with Creative Commons license. Please click on the photo to learn more about each photographer.