The Maine Sunday Telegram is the largest newspaper in the state of Maine, and I'll admit that I've been awaiting its review of The Poacher's Son with some trepidation. Today, on the Fourth of July, I finally received a review, and it was fantastic. Lloyd Ferris's assessment of my book is one of the best yet, made sweeter by the fact that Ferris really knows Maine. Here's his take on my novel:
For one of the 10 least populated states, Maine has a surprising number of nationally known writers: Tess Gerritsen, Monica Wood and the ever-productive Stephen King among them. Paul Doiron may soon join that impressive field with his first novel, The Poacher's Son.
It's the story of a young Maine game warden trying to save his brawling, hard-drinking father who's accused of murdering two men. Fast-paced and believable, Doiron's book explores the murky depths of a father-son relationship played out in northern Maine's vanishing wilderness.
The Poacher's Son is refreshingly different. Written in the first person, the novel is narrated by its main character, persistent game warden Mike Bowditch. He's an argumentative man stubborn enough to drive off his [girlfriend] and try the patience of his warden supervisor, Kathy Frost. At the same time, readers know from the author's wonderfully stitched-together flashbacks that Mike's shortcomings come from a rough childhood spent in part with his angry, law-breaking father.
Instantly mesmerized, I was convinced (before encountering some unfamiliar place names) that the book was a nonfiction memoir of a Maine game warden with a most unusual life. It was that convincing.
A master of description, Doiron shines even in depicting minor characters. Early in the novel, for instance, he zeroes in on the Square Deal Diner "owned by a plump and hyperactive widow named Dot Libby who also ran a motel and gift shop out on the highway, served as chair of the school board, organized the municipal Fourth of July picnic, and played the organ every Sunday morning at the Congregational Church."
The Poacher's Son is a mystery in that it deals with murder and has a twisty plot leading to an unexpected end. But Doiron's book offers more than one finds in a typical mystery. The author's examination of traits passed from father to son is grist for thought, and his depiction of characters nothing less than terrific. You'll like this fine novel.
Winning the praise of the local critics is no small thing. I say that as someone who has written his share of tough-minded book reviews about novels that get Maine horribly wrong. I'm grateful that the Telegram believes I got Maine—and its people—right.