Through five books (and counting), readers have rooted for game warden Mike Bowditch, the protagonist of author Paul Doiron’s series of novels set in the Maine woods.
It hasn’t always been easy, as Bowditch has proven prickly, impetuous, hot-headed and downright reckless at times.
In his latest book, “The Precipice,” the Camden author has lived up to a promise he made a couple years back: Bowditch is a work in progress. Give him time, and he’ll figure himself out.
“I hope readers who were frustrated by Mike’s youthful recklessness in the previous books will give him another chance!” Doiron said in a recent email, in response to a series of questions about the book. “I think that what makes my series different from a lot of other crime series out there is that the books are as much about how my character is developing, not just as a law enforcement officer, but as a man. Mike Bowditch isn’t a static character from book to book because he is maturing.”
So, too, is Doiron … and that’s saying something.
The author was nominated for an Edgar award after writing his first novel, “The Poacher’s Son,” and has received critical acclaim for his other offerings.
In “The Precipice,” Doiron ratchets up the suspense another notch, taking readers deep in the Maine woods as Bowditch tries to solve the case of two missing hikers on the 100-Mile Wilderness on the Appalachian Trail.
A quick warning: Set aside a block of time before you begin reading. You might not find a convenient place to stop until you’re through.
This time around, Bowditch ditches some of his youthful indiscretions, and (if you can believe it) grows up. Almost.
“In ‘The Precipice’ he finds himself in the new and uncomfortable position of having to be the responsible one while his girlfriend, Stacey Stevens, a wildlife biologist with [the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife], keeps going off half-cocked,” Doiron explained.
Stevens, the daughter of Bowditch’s mentor, has made appearances in past Doiron novels, and the friction between her and Bowditch was a common thread. In “The Precipice,” that tension is still there, but the duo have begun dating, and are working together on the case.
Stevens proves an interesting foil for Bowditch: She’s the only Doiron character we’ve met this far that comes close to matching his ability to metaphorically pour gas onto any number of smoldering fires.
In the Bowditch series, Doiron has taken readers on a tour of the Maine seasons, choosing to set each book in a different month. Not only does Maine enjoy four full seasons, each month has its own distinguishing qualities, he said.
“The Precipice” is set in September.
“Whenever someone from out of state asks me which month they should visit Maine, I always say September. It’s my favorite month,” Doiron wrote in the email, explaining his choice. “In terms of weather, it can still feel like summer, but you get these little reminders that fall is coming. I’m thinking of those blazing red swamp maples that seem to be the first trees to change color. I wanted ‘The Precipice’ to be a summer book — thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is a summer phenomenon — but with the ominous edge of autumn coming.”
Doiron said the book’s jack-rabbit pace wasn’t an accident. And after five previous novels, he said he felt well-equipped to take the next step in his development.
“Writing a novel is like any other skill. You get better the more you do it,” Doiron wrote. “I also approach each new novel with a certain intention that might not be the same for the previous book. With ‘The Precipice’ I knew that I wanted to write a more headlong, plot-driven story that showed Mike Bowditch doing his job competently. You get to follow him as he is looking for clues to the missing hikers’ whereabouts, and you realize he is a pretty good searcher. I’d want him looking for me if I were lost in the 100-Mile Wilderness.”
Alas, like the rest of Doiron’s books, there is one shortcoming: It ended too soon, leaving fans of the series to wonder what’s going to happen next.
Luckily, Doiron is willing to offer a tiny hint.
“This is the first time that I am announcing this, but the seventh book in the series will be titled ‘Widowmaker,’ and is set in a Maine ski resort town in December,” he wrote. “I can’t say more than that.”
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke