The Poacher's Son

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. The Poacher’s Son is a sterling debut of literary suspense. Taut and engrossing, it represents the first in a series featuring Mike Bowditch.

Maine 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, Mike 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. There they meet a beautiful woman who claims to be Jack’s mistress but who seems to be guarding a more dangerous secret. The only way for Mike to save his father now 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.

Praise for The Poacher's Son

“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 House of Sand and Fog

“Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son is 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

The Poacher’s Son is a haunting tale, and Paul Doiron is a powerful and evocative writer.”

Tess Gerritsen, author of Ice Cold

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

“Paul Doiron makes the backwoods culture of Maine come vibrantly alive in this excellent debut... The Poacher’s Son is a fast-paced outdoor adventure filled with murder, betrayal, and a terrific sense of place. Welcome aboard, Mr. Doiron . . . ”

C.J. Box, Edgar Award-winning author of Blue Heaven

“In The Poacher's Son, a baffling double murder forces Mike Bowditch to face his complex feelings for his father and, more poignantly, his well-hidden need for a sense of family. This is a page-turning, thoroughly satisfying blend of murder mystery and family drama. I fell in love with Mike, so I hope his creator is typing as fast as he can!"

Monica Wood, author of Any Bitter Thing

“The Poacher's Son is an adventure worthy of its magnificent Maine setting. Fans of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr will relish the riveting debut of the Jack Bowditch series. Paul Doiron is a spellbinding new storyteller whose literate, intelligent novel will have readers begging for more.”

Julia Spencer-Fleming, Edgar Award finalist and author of I Shall Not Want

“Paul Doiron is a first-rate storyteller who masterfully evokes the moxie and mayhem of small-town Maine. The Poacher's Son won me over instantly.”

Lewis Robinson, author of Officer Friendly and Other Stories

 Click here to read an excerpt from The Poacher's Son.

The New York Times: “The novel’s eye-popping scenes, idyllic and otherwise, are conveyed by Doiron’s narrator, Mike Bowditch, a rookie game warden who loves the ‘solitary and morbid profession’ that is threatened when his father, Jack, a notorious poacher, is accused of murder. ‘He was a bar brawler, not a terrorist,’ Mike insists, swearing loyalty to a man who may not be worth his son’s faith in him. Jack is still a flamboyant character, one of the best sights in a book that has plenty of natural wonders.”

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review "Pick of the Week"): “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....Equally a story of relationships and an outdoor adventure, this evocative thriller is sure to put Doiron on several 2010 must-read lists."

Booklist (Starred Review): “Doiron’s debut crime novel is set ...in the North Woods of Maine, the home of rookie game warden Mike Bowditch. As tensions rise across the state with the impending sale of huge tracts of paper- company forest land to an out-of-state developer, Mike receives a strange message from his father, left on the same night the paper company rep and a state trooper are shot and killed after a heated town meeting. Doiron, editor-in-chief of Down East magazine, is well acquainted with the current political and cultural tensions that crisscross Maine, and his local knowledge drives this fast-paced and twisty narrative. 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.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review): “A Maine Game Warden 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 [Bowditch]'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.”

Library Journal (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 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.”

PopMatters: "Literary suspense—a story that scares with style, panache, symbolism, and metaphor along with a good dose of psychological terror—almost seems to be a thing of the past. That’s why books like The Poacher’s Son are not to be read but cherished. The Poacher’s Son, Paul Doiron’s debut novel, is pure, unadulterated literary suspense. Beautifully crafted and perfectly paced, it makes you tuck your feet up under you while reading, and occasionally look nervously over your shoulder—just to make certain no one is there. The setting and the characters both contribute to the greatest strength of this novel—the psychological tension and realism. It’s the psychological aspects that make the book suspenseful—not the violence or the murders. By the middle of the story, it’s not clear who Mike doubts and dislikes more: his father or himself. That is perhaps the most haunting element of the book—Mike’s self-doubt and the universality of this self-doubt. Everyone wants to think they can spot a monster, a murderer, that they would know if their own father was really a cold-blooded killer. After all who knows a father better than his own son? If Mike doesn’t know whether or not his father is capable of murder, what can he know with any certainty?  It’s that age-old, universal question: Who can you trust when you don’t trust yourself?"

RT Book Reviews (4 Stars): “Doiron’s impressive debut is told through the eyes of the suspect’s estranged son. This is a literate tale of revenge, love and loyalty that uses the mysterious Maine woods as both a motive for the crime and a knob for ratcheting up the suspense...There are plenty of twists and surprises to keep the reader guessing until the very end.”

Sun Sentinel: “Doiron skillfully melds an outdoor adventure with a personal story of families. The Poacher's Sonmoves at a brisk pace with unpredictable but realistic twists that reach a crescendo at the shocking finale. The Poacher's Son is proving to be one of the best debuts of the year.”

Kirkus Reviews, 2010 Spring & Summer Preview: “One of the year’s boldest debuts comes from the woodsy wilderness of Maine, where Paul Doiron augments his day job as the editor-in-chief of Down East magazine with a new crime series....Doiron’s fierce combination of wilderness know-how and old-school journalism has already earned him a three-book contract.” 

BookPage: “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.”

BookBrowse: “The Poacher's Son is stocked with excitement and trepidation. Peering over the shoulder of Mike Bowditch as he combs through the eerie silence of the North Woods is pure nail-biting fun. Paul Doiron expertly takes hundreds of miles of largely uninhabited terrain and pares them down to a veritable base camp providing readers with easy access to both the thrill of the story and the breathtaking beauty of Maine's northern exposure. Loaded with unexpected twists, The Poacher's Son takes you to the edge and leaves you begging for more.”

Bookslut: “Paul Doiron’s debut novel The Poacher’s Son transcends its setting, lending a bleak austerity to its milieu while simultaneously infusing its main character with Steinbeckian humanity.”

I Love a Mystery: “Debut novels often show weaknesses in characterization, in dialogue, in plotting. But Paul Doiron has written a seamless thriller in The Poacher's Son... This is a debut novel that never takes a wrong turn.”

Dick Adler, The Rap Sheet: “Absolutely flawless... So far, this is my pick for Best Mystery of the Year.”

The Charlotte Observer:“Paul Doiron's debut novel explores the strange territory between fathers and sons with this tale of a game warden who refuses to believe that his ne'er-do-well father is guilty of a double murder. Doiron also paints an all-too-familiar picture of corporations profiting from destroying a way of life—this time, in the wilds of Maine. It's an engaging story, with a flawed hero whose childhood issues overwhelm his good judgment over and over again.”

Star Tribune, Minneapolis: “This debut novel set in the Maine wilderness opens with a story that 9-year old Mike Bowditch heard from his father— a Vietnam vet, a deadbeat dad and a poacher. It's a  “ story that has haunted” Bowditch, now a game warden, since his childhood. Not because of the story's content, but because of what the story revealed about his dad. When Bowditch's father becomes the main suspect in a deputy's death, Bowditch puts his career on the line to hunt for the killer, a quest that takes him deep into the forests of Maine and the heart of his dad's darkness. Doiron knows well the lay of the landscape he's writing about. The subtle parallels he draws between the beasts of the forest and the beasts within us are compelling.”

Bangor Daily News: "What makes Doiron’s writing so engaging [are] his descriptions of the Maine rarely advertised by the state Department of Tourism or showcased in the glossy pages of Down East that captivates the reader. Doiron could do for Maine what the late Tony Hillerman did for the Southwest in his mysteries featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Residents of the Pine Tree State...will snatch up these mysteries because the author takes readers into “the real Maine” from their armchairs."

Maine Sunday Telegram: "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. Written in the first person, the novel is narrated by its main character, persistent game warden Mike Bowditch. Instantly mesmerized, I was convinced...that the book was a nonfiction memoir of a Maine game warden with a most unusual life. It was that convincing. 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."

Daily Herald (Provo): "Even more than the action—which is intense—character and setting define this book. Northern Maine in the summertime is a felt presence in Doiron's finely-wrought text: the mosquitoes bite, the humidity cloys, the pines perfume the air, and seeable stars spatter the sky. The resolution of Mike's quest is as surprising as it is fitting, making The Poacher's Son not only great summer reading, but simply great reading."

The Maine Sportsman: "The Poacher’s Son, an exceptional read, includes great characters and a terrific plot. It’s a page turner for sure.… As an observer of the Maine Warden Service for the past 18 years in my capacity as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I find Doiron’s presentation of his game warden, Mike Bowditch, spot on, from Bowditch’s frightening encounter with a wounded bear to the complaint against him from a disgruntled boater who received a citation for not having a life jacket on his kid…I purchased the book because the main character was a game warden. I read it quickly, over a 48-hour period, because the plot grabbed me from the opening chapter....Although Doiron agrees he’s lucky to get his first novel published, you’ll be the lucky one if you buy it and read it."