Paul Doiron, the Maine wildlife enthusiast is back with the fourth book in the Mike Bowditch series. Massacre Pond follows Bad Little Falls (reviewed in Vol. 5 No. 38) occurring at the end of the following summer. Bowditch’s past adventures have given him a lot to think about, and one of the most unexpected and important developments is his new friendship with Billy Cronk, especially since Mike got him fired from his last job.
Now Billy has a new job working for the multimillionaire, Elizabeth Morse. She made her money with herbal products and has set her eyes, and her money, on saving a large track of the North Woods and turning it into a National Park, a safe haven for wildlife. The community is in an uproar causing Morse to receive countless threats and hate mail, but no one had ever put their words into action until now.
After Mike receives a disturbing call from Billy, he meets his friend on Morse’s private property to find a crime scene the likes Maine’s wardens have never seen. Ten moose have been shot, killed, and left for dead. This blatant disregard for the rules and wildlife has everyone appalled. As first on the scene Mike expects to have a large part in the investigation, but do to his history and freethinking, Mike is (as always) on the shit list of his lieutenant. He wants to clear his name with his superiors and accepts the corresponding shitty assignments until Elizabeth Morse chooses him as her own liaison to the wardens’ office. In the following days, the attacks on the Morse’s increase in nerve and blood.
In Massacre Pond, Mike tries to change his methods. He’s tired of the reputation he’s gained in the eyes of his superiors and resolves to do things by the book. This proves harder to do than he thinks. Struggling with personal issues, not least of which is his love for the engaged Stacy Stevens, daughter of his old friend Charley, Mike questions his future with the service and who he really is. As he follows what little evidence there is, never questioning that something is a little off, Mike races to find a friend and solve the case.
Massacre Pond is a great example of a writer only getting better. I feel the need to compare it to Bad Little Falls because I listened to and reviewed it as well. Where the prior book was thrilling with twists, turns, and perhaps more action, Massacre Pond still has the twists and turns and action, but it brings more humanity and develops a deeper main character.
There is a sense of contemplation in Bowditch throughout the novel. It is not just about the case but about the man Bowditch is and wants to be. Doiron writes that doubt subtly into the first person telling of this adventure. And for all I’m concerned Henry Leyva is now Mike Bowditch. After two novels, listening to him tell his tale as Bowditch, I imagine their voices are one and the same. Maybe that’s why some of Leyva’s character voices struck me as off-putting. Coming into this book without any prior Doiron or Bowditch experience is made easy with the reiterating accounts of past events and relationships (which is fun for a short time for those who have read/listen to the past novels but grows repetitious).
As a complete, self-contained literary work, I found Massacre Pond entertaining and compelling. As part of a series, I found it adventurous and refreshing (as it takes Bowditch into a new place in his character development). I expect more fun listens from Paul Doiron and Henry Leyva.