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The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Series #1)

The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Series #1)

4.0 163
by Paul Doiron

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Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive—his own father

Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father Jack, a hard drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more


Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive—his own father

Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father Jack, a hard drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: they are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before—and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty.

Now, alienated from the woman he loves, shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop-killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand Jack's brutality, but is the man capable of murder? Desperate and alone, he strikes up an uneasy alliance with a retired warden pilot, and together the two men journey deep into the Maine wilderness in search of a runaway fugitive. But the only way for Mike to save his father is to find the real killer—which could mean putting everyone he loves in the line of fire.
The Poacher's Son is a sterling debut of literary suspense. Taut and engrossing, it represents the first in a series featuring Mike Bowditch.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Down East editor-in-chief Doiron takes a provocative look at the ties between fathers and sons, unconditional love, and Maine’s changing landscape in his outstanding debut. Game warden Mike Bowditch, who hasn’t heard from his dad, Jack Bowditch, in two years, wonders what the man wants from him after he comes home late one night and finds Jack has left a cryptic message on his answering machine. Mike later learns Jack is the prime suspect in the shooting murders of a cop and a timber company executive. Jack, a brutal alcoholic, makes his living poaching game, but Mike can’t believe Jack is a cold-blooded killer. Mike’s belief in his father puts his job at risk, alienates him from the police, and drives him further away from the woman he loves. Fans of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr will appreciate the vivid wilderness scenes. Equally a story of relationships and an outdoor adventure, this evocative thriller is sure to put Doiron on several 2010 must-read lists. 100,000 first printing; author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Mike Bowditch, 24, is a rookie game warden for the state of Maine. He's also the son of Jack Bowditch, legendary woodsman, brawler, womanizer, and poacher whom Mike has not seen in over two years. One hot summer night while Mike is out answering a call about a bear stealing a pig, Jack leaves Mike a cryptic message on his answering machine. The next morning, Mike learns that his father is wanted in the murders of a paper company representative and a sheriff's deputy. Through a long few days, Mike jeopardizes his dream job to help the father whose attention he could never get. VERDICT A richly imagined portrait of the vanishing wilderness in New England's farthest reaches, Doiron's (editor in chief, Down East: The Magazine of Maine) well-written debut is also a taut thriller and a thoughtful examination of the complicated relationship between father and son. Of a piece with Castle Freeman Jr.'s All That I Have about a Vermont sheriff, this will also appeal to fans of C.J. Box's Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. [A Minotaur First Edition Selection; 100,000-copy first printing; library marketing.]—Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH
Kirkus Reviews
A Maine Game Warden fights to clear his no-account father of murder charges in this deeply felt actioner. Even before his parents divorced, Mike Bowditch wasn't close to his father, and after the breakup, when Jack Bowditch descended into a swamp of womanizing and drinking, Mike had less and less to do with him. Since the last time he saw his father two years ago, he's become a Game Warden-a slap in the face to both his poacher father and his girlfriend, Sarah Harris, who left Mike when she realized he was never going to go to law school. Now Jack's back in Mike's life with a vengeance. Someone has shot Jonathan Shipman, the spokesman for the deeply unpopular corporate purchaser of a 100-year-old campground that's obviously planning to shove the current residents aside in the name of development, and Bill Brodeur, the deputy who was guarding him. Det. Wayne Soctomah is convinced that Jack was the shooter. So is almost everyone else in Somerset County except for Mike and his mother, Marie Turner. Scorning Marie and her second husband, attorney Neil Turner, who go into hiding to avoid Jack, Mike vows to do whatever he can to vindicate the father who's been phoning him for help. His decision leads to a series of disastrously self-destructive actions that Doiron makes perfectly credible, all interspersed with a series of flashbacks to Mike's childhood that are both tender and chilling. C.J. Box goes East. Like Box, Doiron will have his hands full trying to top his accomplished debut. First printing of 100,000
From the Publisher

“[An] excellent debut . . . filled with murder, betrayal, and a terrific sense of place.” —C. J. Box

“. . . stunning vistas . . . eye-popping scenes.” —New York Times Book Review

“With precise and evocative prose, Paul Doiron weaves a riveting tale set deep in the wilderness that can be the tenuous bond between father and son. This is a compelling, moving, and utterly impressive debut!” —Andre Dubus III, author of The House of Sand and Fog

The Poacher's Son is a gripping, original, and literate tale of love and loyalty, betrayal and redemption. You won't want to put it down.” —John Lescroart, author of A Plague of Secrets

“One of the best-written debut novels I've read in years. This story has it all--a great plot, a wonderful Maine woods setting, and a truly remarkable and believable cast of characters.” —Nelson DeMille, author of The Gate House

“Doiron takes a provocative look at the ties between fathers and sons, unconditional love, and Maine's changing landscape in his outstanding debut. . . . Fans of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr will appreciate the vivid wilderness scenes.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Poacher's Son is a haunting tale, and Paul Doiron is a powerful and evocative writer.” —Tess Gerritsen, author of The Keepsake

“Paul Doiron is a spellbinding new storyteller whose literate, intelligent novel will have readers begging for more.” —Julia Spencer-Fleming, Edgar finalist and author of I Shall Not Want

“A Maine Game Warden [Mike Bowditch] fights to clear his no-account father of murder charges in this deeply felt actioner. . . . His decision leads to a series of disastrously self-destructive actions that Doiron makes perfectly credible, all interspersed with a series of flashbacks to Mike's childhood that are both tender and chilling. C.J. Box goes East. Like Box, Doiron will have his hands full trying to top his accomplished debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A richly imagined portrait of the vanishing wilderness in New England's farthest reaches, Doiron's well-written debut is also a taut thriller and thoughtful examination of the complicated relationship between father and son.” —Library Journal (starred review, editor's choice)

“An outstanding gripping debut . . . The Poacher's Son moves at a brisk pace with unpredictable but realistic twists that reach a crescendo at the shocking finale. . . . one of the best debuts of the year.” —Sun Sentinel

“With realistically flawed characters and a strong sense of place the novel avoids tourist stereotyping, of Maine itself and its citizens. . . . One hopes this fine novel is the first in a series starring Warden Bowditch, who could quickly become the East Coast version of C. J. Box's game-warden hero Joe Pickett, who patrols the range in Wyoming.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Impressive. . . . The setting is wildly atmospheric, the pacing swift and the characters well drawn. The Poacher's Son is easily one of the best debut novels in recent memory.” —BookPage

“[An]impressive debut . . . there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep the reader guessing until the very end.” —RT Book Review (four stars)

“Stocked with excitement and trepidation . . . pure nail-biting fun. . . . Loaded with unexpected twists, The Poacher's Son takes you to the edge and leaves you begging for more. . .” —BookBrowse

“Engaging . . . Doiron could do for Maine what the late Tony Hillerman did for the Southwest in his mysteries featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.” —Bangor Daily News

“Pure, unadulterated literary suspense. Beautifully crafted and perfectly paced . . . Doiron's writing is exceptional.” —PopMatters

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Mike Bowditch Series , #1
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


A black bear had gotten into a pigpen out on the Beechwood Road, and it had run off with a pig. There were bear tracks in the mud outside the broken fence and drag marks that led through the weeds into the second-growth timber behind the farm. The man who owned the pig stood behind me as I shined my flashlight on the empty pen. He had called me out of bed to drive over here, and his voice over the phone had been thin and breathless, as if he’d just run up a hill.

“Warden Bowditch,” he said, “I never seen nothing like it.”

His graying hair was wet from the rain that had just stopped falling. He wore an old undershirt stretched tight over his swollen belly and a pair of wash-faded jeans that hugged his hips and exposed an inch of white skin above the waistband. He carried a .22 caliber rifle over his shoulder, and he was holding a sixteen-ounce can of Miller High Life. His eyes were as red as a couple of smashed grapes.

It was a hot, humid night in early August. The thunderstorm that had just finished drenching midcoast Maine, five hours north of Boston, was moving quickly out to sea. A quarter moon kept appearing and disappearing behind raggedy, fast-moving clouds that trailed behind the storm like the tail of a kite. Crickets chirruped by the hundreds from the wet grass, and far off in the pines I heard a great horned owl.

The bear had clawed apart the plank fence as if it were a dollhouse, leaving a pile of splintered boards where the gate had been.

“Tell me what happened, Mr. Thompson,” I said, moving the beam of the flashlight over the puddled ground.

“Call me Bud.”

“What happened, Bud?”

“That bear just scooped him up like he was a rag doll.”

I shined the light against the farmhouse. It was a clapboard frame building with a broken-backed barn that looked about to collapse and a chicken coop and toolshed out back. Behind the house was a dense stand of second-growth birch and alder with pine woods beyond. The bear had only to cross thirty feet of open field to get to the pigpen.

“You said you saw the bear attack him?”

“Heard it first. I was inside watching the TV when Pork Chop started screaming. I mean squealing. But you know it sounded like screaming.” He slapped a mosquito on his neck. “Anyhow, I looked out the window, but it was raining, and I couldn’t see a damned thing on account of how dark it was. Then I heard wood snapping and Pork Chop screaming and I grabbed my gun and came running out here in the rain. That’s when I seen it.”

Now that I was close to him I could smell the heavy surge of beer on his breath. “Go on.”

“Well, it was a bear. A big one. I didn’t know there were bears that big around here. It was reaching over the fence with its paw, leaning on the fence, and the boards were just snapping under its weight. And poor Pork Chop was back in the corner, trying to get away, but it wasn’t any use. The bear just hooked him with its claws and pulled him in.”

“How come you didn’t shoot it?”

“That’s the thing of it. I did, but I must have forgot to load the gun.” He rubbed his hand across his wet eyes and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “It wouldn’t have really attacked me, would it?”

“I doubt it.” There are no recorded reports of fatal black bear attacks on humans in the state of Maine, but I’d read of fatalities in Ontario and Quebec, and it was probably only a matter of time until something happened here. “You were right not to provoke it, though. If you’d shot the bear with a .22 you probably wouldn’t have killed it, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.”

Except a drunk with a gun, said a voice in my head.

“I loved that pig.” He swung the rifle off his shoulder and held it up by the strap. “I wish I’d shot that son of a bitch.”

“You shouldn’t handle a firearm when you’ve been drinking, Bud.”

“He was the smartest pig I ever had!”

I raised my flashlight so the beam caught him in the eyes. “Do you live alone here?”

Whether it was the light or the question that sobered him I don’t know, but he blinked and ran his tongue along his cracked lower lip and looked at me with renewed attention.

“My wife’s moved out for a while,” he said. “But she’ll be back before too long.” His expression turned pleading. “You don’t need to talk to her, do you?”

“No. I just wondered if anyone else saw what happened.”

He scratched the mosquito bite on his neck. “I got an old dog inside. But he’s deaf and just about blind.”

“I meant another person. You said you hadn’t seen the bear around here before. Is that right?”

“I didn’t even know there were bears this near the coast. You don’t think it’ll come back here, do you?”

“Probably not, since you don’t have another pig. But I see you keep some hens.” I gestured with my flashlight toward the chicken coop, using the beam to draw his attention. “The bear might come back for the hens, although I doubt it will. Why don’t you go inside and put that gun away. I want to take a look in the woods.”

He glanced at the trees and shivered. “Be careful!”

I watched him shuffle away into the house, head hanging, beer in hand. No wonder his wife left him, I thought. Then I remembered my own empty bed back home and I stopped feeling so superior. Sarah had been gone exactly fifty-five days. Earlier, I’d gone to bed thinking that it would be fifty-six days when I woke up, but that was before Thompson called. So here it was fifty-five days again.

I got to work measuring the paw prints in the mud. They resembled the tracks a barefoot person might leave walking along a beach. Judging by the distance between the front and hind feet, I figured it was a medium-sized bear, two hundred pounds or so.

I followed the drag marks through the field, and the rainwater that clung to the weeds soaked through my pants legs. The trail disappeared into the low bushes—scrub birch and speckled alder and sumac—that grew along the edge of the forest. I directed my light into the wet mass of leaves, half-expecting to see the beam reflected back by the eye shine of the bear’s retinas.

Thompson’s description suggested a curious young bear expanding its diet from berries and beechnuts to the other white meat. Probably the animal was miles away by now, having gorged itself on Thompson’s beloved pig. Still, I found myself listening for anything to indicate the bear might be nearby. A mosquito whined in my ear. Ahead of me and all around, I heard trees dripping in the darkness. Switching the flashlight from my right hand to my left, I reached down to touch the grip of my sidearm. It was a heavy SIG SAUER P226 .357 Magnum that I had never fired except at a practice range.

I pushed my way into the forest. Beaded rainwater spilled off the leaves onto my shoulders and face. I was drenched in an instant.

After a few steps, I was through the green wall of bushes and saplings at the edge of the wood. Beneath the trees the air was still and heavy with the smell of growing things—as humid as a hothouse. I made an arc with the bull’s-eyed flashlight beam along the forest floor, looking for drag marks. But the soft carpet of moss and pine needles had absorbed all traces of the bear’s passing, and I saw no more blood drops. I wandered deeper into the woods, searching.

I found the pig a hundred yards in.

It lay on its side in a puddle of congealing blood. Its throat had been torn out, and its haunches had been chewed to a red pulp. The bear had not attempted to bury the carcass or cover it with leaves. It was possible it had heard me coming.

I switched off the flashlight and stood under the dripping trees, listening. I knew retired game wardens and ancient trappers who could hear the rustle a buck made passing through alders across a stream. Men who were so at one with the woods that they didn’t fully exist among other human beings but were only truly themselves outdoors. Maybe someday I’d be one of those old woodsmen. But for the moment I was still a twenty-four-year-old rookie, less than a year on the job, and my senses told me nothing about where the bear was.

I turned the flashlight back on. Then I went up to the house to tell poor Bud Thompson what I had found.

By the time I got home it was well past midnight. I’d left the light on outside the screen door and moths were swirling about, butting themselves stupidly against the glass.

As I stepped inside, I was surprised again by my empty house. Sarah had taken most of the furniture with her when she moved out. It always startled me, coming home, to see how little I actually owned. Stacks of books and newspapers, a steel gun cabinet, fallen antlers I had collected in the snow.

Moonlight shined in through the windows, bright enough to see by, so I left the lights off as I moved through the house, shedding my damp shirt and boots as I went. I unbuckled my gun belt and put it away, then wandered into the kitchen. Frosty light spilled out of the refrigerator when I swung the door open. I found a bottle of beer and pressed it against my forehead as I made my way out into the living room.

I cracked open the beer and toasted Bud Thompson and Mike Bowditch—two womenless men dousing our loneliness with alcohol. Except that unlike Thompson, I had chosen to be alone. An empty house was what I’d wanted all along, even if it had taken Sarah years to realize it.

She’d hung in there with me from Colby College, where we’d met, through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and the Advanced Warden Academy and my long weeks of field training. She’d toughed it out, thinking it was a phase I was going through, that eventually I’d go to law school like we’d talked about and become a prosecutor and maybe someday a judge. But it wasn’t a phase, and it was only after I had gotten posted in coastal Knox County that she realized that being a game warden was a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week way of life, and for reasons neither of us fully understood, I’d chosen it over her.

So she left.

And I missed her—and counted the days since she’d gone away. But I was relieved, too. Relieved that I no longer had to justify my emotions to anyone else. I could spend the night alone in the woods searching for a dead pig and be content in a way that made absolutely no sense to anyone who wasn’t a game warden. With Sarah gone, I could love this solitary and morbid profession without excuses and not have to look too deeply into the dark of myself.

That was when I noticed a small blinking light across the room.

It hadn’t occurred to me to check my answering machine. I’d been gone only an hour and a half, and most everyone I knew had my pager number if they needed to get a hold of me. My first thought was that it had something to do with the bear. Maybe someone else had seen it outside their house, or maybe it had gotten into another pigpen.

When I pushed play there was the raspy sound of breathing on the other end for a while before a man finally spoke: “Mike? Hello? Pick up if you’re there.” There was a long pause. Then, in the background, came a woman’s voice: “Is he there?” The man said: “No, goddamn it! He’s not home!” Followed by a disconnect.

I didn’t recognize the woman, but the other voice was deep and monotone, just like mine, and hearing it again after two years was enough to start my pulse racing. Why was my father calling after all this time? What could he possibly want from me now?

I stood still in the dark while the tape rewound.

Meet the Author

Bestselling author Paul Doiron is the editor-in-chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine. A native of Maine, he attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English, and he holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. Paul is a Registered Maine Guide and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine with his wife, Kristen Lindquist.

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The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 164 reviews.
Vermontcozy More than 1 year ago
Maine..Rural setting,areas that are unknown,but close enough for developers to want in..Mike 24 a Game Warden,college grad, will he remain in this field?His Vietnam Vet father Jack,with many issues of his own.I was drawn in on the first page,and this tightly written mystery,characters that are real,developed but still with many questions of my own .We can all become a part of their lives for a short time,has opened up my own spin on the next in this series of "The Poachers Son"#2.Paul Doiron has showen many the beauty of Maine,but also with secrets and intrigue that are hidden deep in the woods..I look forward to 2011 and beyond ,for this Mike Bowditch series to continue..
SandyS More than 1 year ago
As a reader that never reads mysteries I found Paul Doiron's "The Poacher's Son" to be fascinating. The characters were well developed and not all likeable. Some were down-right incorrigible. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, but I was never lost. The setting in the woods of Maine was lovely. But most importantly, the mystery and crime were plausible. Even though our narrator was young and naive, the supporting characters gave credibility to the entire story. A great week-end read!
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
A great first novel by a very knowledgeable writer, whose roots are deep in the New England soil. The Poachers Son hits you at once, like a nor'easter, and holds you in it's grip till the last pages. Mike Bowditch has become a Maine Game Warden, in spite of, or perhaps, because of his poacher father. When his dad becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a local police officer, Mike offers to help track him down, hoping to protect him and clear his name. This exciting story unfolds across the spectacular panorama of backwoods Maine, which is richly and lovingly described by the author. The characters are full of life and the book seems to cry out for a further installment. If you are looking for a fresh, summer read full of action and mystery in the great outdoors, this is the book for you.
kpatton More than 1 year ago
This is a fun, entertaining mystery. The main character, Mike, is a game warder who gets caught in trying to unravel a murder. Could it really be his estranged father who has murdered two men? Mike puts his job in jeopardy while he tries to clear his father's name. Good novel to read when you want to be absorbed by a story without the story line being heavy. With summer coming up, would definitely recommend.
pen21 More than 1 year ago
This book has such strong characters that get us emotionally attached. This has enhanced the mystery part of the book. In the discussion of the advanced reading copy people were rooting for, defending, upset with the characters. This book did not end up the way I had predicted. And that is good. I like a book that takes me on that ride of thinking you know what is coming, then the next chapter will change my mind. The Poachers Son also introduced me to Maine, very good descriptions. Thank you for a great book. I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
c j box make room for a new series that is likely to keep readers enthralled for years to come! What an exceptional, brilliant debut! I absolutely loved the book and cannot wait for doiron's next story. Not to be missed.
mrsareads More than 1 year ago
The Poacher's Son is wonderful mystery with a great new character in Game Warden Mike Bowditch. It gives a wonderful perspective of the Maine woods. The mystery is compelling and keeps the reader engaged and interested. Men especially will enjoy the 'manly' aspect of the characters and the action involved in the plot. Since the author has stated that it will be the first in a series, it would make a great Father's Day gift. Dad will enjoy the story and be ready for the next book.
blkeyesuzi More than 1 year ago
A thrilling, character-driven novel of suspense that will no doubt keep you entertained. Set in the wilderness of Main, a search ensues for a cop killer and the prime suspect is game warden, Mike Bowditch's father and Mike is the only man who believes in his father's innocence. Has his father's brutal past caught up with him? Is he a killer or will Mike be able to prove his father's innocence? Enjoy the excitement learning the truth alongside Mike as he follows a trail of clues in search of a cop killer who just may be his own father. This is a wonderful debut novel and the first of what is certain to be a riveting series starring a soon to be favorite character, Mike Bowditch. "The Poacher's Son" is like a good cup of coffee. A jolt to get your heart started and good to the last drop.
wjbauer More than 1 year ago
The mystery and description of places and events was great. I would have liked to had a map to see where each place was. It was in Maine and I was able to imagine all the events and places well. I didn't like the language well, but the author needed to do it to make you feel at home in the back woods. Held my attention all the way through. What an ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book keeps your interest. I already have his next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the Maine wilderness included in the fast moving mystery. I had to buy the second Mike Bowditch book to continue the enjoyment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this because I had seen a review in a small-town Maine weekly, and I spend time in Maine. I did not expect it to be as good as it was. People who love the outdoors and adventure / crime/ stories would appreciate it most.I bought this one and the next 3, and I wish there were more. 1. I cared about the main character. He has flaws but they are not flaws that made me say "Why am I reading this?" I refuse to waste my time on a book when I do not care whether the main character lives or dies. 2. It is not a nail-biting plot cover to cover, but builds up suspense. 3. The author shares a little bit of his personal philosophy, kind of like Sue Grafton, not a lot of philosophy, just a little, to add a little punch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All of his books are amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although well written with an interesting story line I unfortunately found the main charactor unlikable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book contains alot of good charaters. It will be especially interesting to people who enjoy the forest service and the outdoors. In my opion the son is very brave to have followed his on path.
iPodReader More than 1 year ago
Well drawn characters, good plot, nicely set up for sequels. The father-- the poacher of the title-- is especially well fleshed out so the reader can understand the dilemma of the son. I would read more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Mike Bowditch book was interesting. I have not had much experience with the wild woods of Maine, but I really did enjoy!
nkbklvr More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable read with a twisty ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are surprises in the ending, but the action is slow and the characters standard cardboard ones. A lot of loose ends.