Bad Little Falls
"Bad Little Falls is a jewel of a book. Doiron has gotten it all magnificently right: a hell of a good mystery, beautifully drawn landscape and characters so evocatively written they follow you off the page. Buy this. The guy can write."
—Nevada Barr, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Rope
Maine game warden Mike Bowditch has been sent into exile, transferred by his superiors to a remote outpost on the Canadian border.
When a blizzard descends on the coast, Bowditch is called to the rustic cabin of a terrified couple. A raving and halffrozen man has appeared at their door, claiming his friend is lost in the storm. But what starts as a rescue mission in the wilderness soon becomes a baffling murder investigation. The dead man is a notorious drug dealer, and state police detectives suspect it was his own friend who killed him. Bowditch isn’t so sure, but his vow not to interfere in the case is tested when he finds himself powerfully attracted to a beautiful woman with a dark past and a troubled young son. The boy seems to know something about what really happened in the blizzard, but he is keeping his secrets locked in a cryptic notebook, and Mike fears for the safety of the strange child. Meanwhile, an anonymous tormentor has decided to make the new warden’s life a living hell. Alone and outgunned,
Bowditch turns for assistance to his old friend, the legendary bush pilot Charley Stevens. But in this snowbound landscape—where smugglers wage blood feuds by night—help seems very far away indeed. If Bowditch is going to catch a killer, he must survive on his own wits and discover strength he never knew he possessed.
Publishers Weekly (Starred, Boxed Review): "The excellent third novel from Edgar-finalist Doiron featuring game warden Mike Bowditch (after 2011’s Trespasser) finds Bowditch in Maine’s equivalent of Siberia, depressed Washington County, to which he was transferred after he became an embarrassment to the powers-that-be by shooting a murderer in self-defense. Bowditch’s strict approach to enforcing licensing regulations soon earns him the enmity of some locals, one of whom affixes a coyote’s pelt to his door as a warning. One winter night, while driving home through a blizzard, the warden receives a call from the man at whose house he just had dinner, veterinarian Doc Larrabee, who needs his help with a person suffering from a severe case of frostbite. Larrabee reports that the victim of the cold, who appeared at a neighbor’s house, managed to communicate, despite his grave condition, that he had a companion. The search for that missing companion involves Bowditch in a murder case with some truly wicked twists. Doiron matches strong characters with effective prose and subtle characterizations. Fans of Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series, likewise set in a remote region close to Canada, will find a lot to like."
Kirkus Reviews: "Now that he’s antagonized every other lawman in the state of Maine (Trespasser, 2011, etc.), game warden Mike Bowditch gets exiled to Washington County, the Down East territory where nothing ever happens. Things happen.
"A snowy dinner with Doc Larrabee, the elderly veterinarian who’s one of the few people on speaking terms with Mike, and Doc’s friend, survivalist/professor Kevin Kendrick, ends when Doc, somewhat the worse for liquor, asks Mike to respond with him to his neighbor Ben Sprague’s call for help. Seems that someone has staggered out of the blizzard into the Spragues’ home and told Ben and his wife, Doris, a wild story about a friend he left wandering out in the snow. The someone, Mike realizes on their arrival, is Prester Sewall, brother of local beauty Jamie Sewall, who’s constitutionally drawn to all the wrong men, from her bullying little ex Mitch Munro, father of her son Lucas, to Randall Cates, the drug dealer she’s been seeing most recently. The friend, Mike soon discovers when he and Kevin go looking for him, is Randall Cates. His death, which seems at first like a happy ending for Jamie, looks both backward to the overdose last year of college student Trinity Raye and forward to the consequences of Mike’s fatal attraction to Jamie. The story’s ultimate import becomes clear only after more bad weather, some truly ugly surprises and the obligatory standoffs between Mike and everyone capable of fighting with him.
"A high-stakes, high-tension yarn in which you keep wishing everything would turn out fine for the deeply flawed, deeply sympathetic hero even though you know it won't."
Booklist: "Game warden Mike Bowditch isn’t sure whether it’s the climate or the area’s unemployment and drug abuse issues that are meant as punishment, but it’s clear his transfer to Maine’s Down East region is no promotion. Winter’s first blizzard offers a taste of his new reality when a search-and-rescue effort uncovers the murdered body of a violent drug dealer. Bowditch is convinced that things don’t add up when police arrest the dead man’s best friend for the crime, but the game warden’s new relationship with the dead dealer’s ex-girlfriend has tanked his credibility. Bucking better judgment, Bowditch starts digging and through a combination of sharp curiosity and gut instinct, he’s soon the only investigator making the connections. Doiron’s third Bowditch entry is riveting and honest, with full-depth characters and a landscape that isn’t cutting any slack. Readers of Nevada Barr and C. J. Box will enjoy this similar tale, with the added surprise of a refreshing hero whose youth and inexperience Doiron skillfully twists into an asset."
RT Book Reviews (4.5 stars, Top Pick): "Doiron once again makes excellent use of Maine’s unforgiving weather to set the stage for a compelling mystery, while underscoring his complicated hero’s troubled character. Elegant prose perfectly captures the feel of the location, and the diverse, realistic cast of characters enriches the narrative. Readers will shiver — both from the cold and in anticipation of the rather shocking conclusion."
The Associated Press: "The plot is riveting, but as always in a Paul Doiron novel, the greatest attraction is the stark beauty of the language and the vivid portrayal of his native Maine. He describes drug-riddled, poverty-stricken Down East — a region of fast-moving streams, frozen lakes, ice-fishing shacks and forbidding bogs — so precisely that you'll feel the below-freezing temperatures in your bones."
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Onward to the "boreal forest of Maine" in Paul Doiron's "Bad Little Falls", the "eastern most county of the United States." Known for its "epidemic drug abuse, multigenerational unemployment, and a long tradition of violent poaching," it's not exactly ideal for Mike Bowditch, game warden recently exiled to this wilderness. Living in a dilapidated trailer at the edge of the woods, lamenting the mistakes of his past, Mike might as well be wearing a scarlet letter. At least Hester had Pearl. Mike has no one until a rescue mission becomes a murder investigation, bringing two quite different women into his life. Mike's complete isolation makes him emotionally vulnerable, which leads to a charged intimacy with one of the women, whose troubled son keeps a cryptic journal, excerpts from which punctuate the narrative and heighten the suspense. Historically, novels set in the American wilderness can be read as metaphors for conflicts with our primal needs. Doiron writes evocatively of the Maine landscape and Mike's internal struggles. It's not difficult to infer this level of meaning."
Omnimystery News: "This is a satisfyingly complex mystery, the key to which seems to be messages coded by a young boy, who may have been a witness to a murder. The remote environment and stormy weather provide a strong backdrop to the story.
The Maine Sportsman: "Doiron, the editor of Down East magazine, is certainly on the upward trajectory right now. I liked his first novel,The Poacher’s Son. I really liked his second novel, Trespasser. And I loved his third about-to-be-published by Minotaur books novel, Bad Little Falls.
"There’s no way in the world, after reading Chapter One of Bad Little Falls that you’ll be able to set this one aside. Doiron’s principle character is a Maine game warden, and Paul has invested a lot of time in the stories, procedures, and challenges of the Maine Warden Service. And he’s got it all right.
"But in this novel, he tackles a couple of other issues that may rankle in some quarters. The story is set in Washington County and his portrayal of the people there is harsh: lots of drug and alcohol problems, poverty, unhealthy lifestyles, trashy trailers, wild and crazy ATV and snowmobile riding, and poaching. OK, sounds like the Maine Wardens’ TV show on Animal Planet. And this portrayal might be accurate, but it hurts!"
Kennebec Journal: "Bad Little Falls is Camden author Paul Doiron’s third book in his wildly popular, award-winning mystery series featuring Game Warden Mike Bowditch. Following The Poacher's Son and Trespasser, this mystery is even better than the first two, which says a lot about Doiron’s exceptional ability to hold readers’ interest with compelling plots and enduring characters. Best, however, is Doiron’s keen talent for creating a palpable atmosphere, capturing the Maine winter in all its bitter-cold and snow-covered landscape, as well as the poverty, violence and despair of a Maine county too easily ignored."
Shelf Awareness: "Filled with frigid winter scenes, dark deeds and tightly constructed character dynamics, Bad Little Falls sees Mike struggling to choose between desire and his better judgment in a labyrinth of dark small-town secrets. The ease with which readers will relate to this headstrong sleuth may prove an even bigger draw than the high stakes of the plot."
Maine Sunday Telegram: "Bad Little Falls is heavily salted with clues and miscues, so much so that it's risky to say much more about the plot without spoiling the superbly crafted intrigue. The book will keep you guessing to its perilous end. And though not everything is neatly tied up in a bow, I got a strong sense from hints that Doiron plants that we haven't seen the last of some of these characters. One in particular makes only a brief cameo appearance, but creates telling turbulence at the heart of the heart of Mike Bowditch."