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by Paul Doiron
Minotaur, June 2022
320 pages
ISBN: 1250235138

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A pleasant kayaking weekend for game warden Mike Bowditch and his girlfriend Stacey Stevens is interrupted by a call for help from an endangered seabirds research center; the former colleague asking for help is a woman Stacey interned with many summers ago. When they get there, the atmosphere is tense at best. The cause for alarm is simple: Maeve McLeary, the sanctuary's founder and guiding light, has disappeared. Nobody knows where she went, when she might be back, or why she left without telling anyone. There are other causes for concern. A photographer has been approaching Baker Island and taking pictures of the interns without permission and without letting the interns know who is taking the pictures or why. Some locals are also harassing the only person of color on the island. Just before Mike and Stacey leave, everyone is relieved to hear that Maeve is on her way back to the island.

During the night, on an island nearby, Mike and Stacey are woken up by a single gunshot. It must have come from the sanctuary island. When they hear a boat nearby, they ask for help and do not get it. In the morning, the two head back to Baker Island to check things out. The two female interns are dead, murdered and posed as if for a snuff-film shoot. The lone man, the only POC for miles and miles, is missing and so is the skiff used to ferry people from their boats to shore. Maeve is nowhere to be found. As one might imagine, the turf war to handle this crime scene is complicated. Mike has worked with several of the officers who will be investigating, from a few different agencies/departments. Some he respects, some he does not. At least one jumps to the clichéd conclusion that Garrett Meadows has to be the killer. Mike is not convinced.

HATCHET ISLAND is Doiron's thirteenth entry in this series. He knows what he is doing in terms of setting and environment; his descriptions can make a reader stop to re-read a phrase or sentence. Mike, as a character, has definitely grown since his first appearance in THE POACHER'S SON. He is much less angst-ridden, far more likely to stop and think or re-think before opening his mouth, and certainly a better tracker. His relationship with Stacey has had some ups and downs; he is very aware of her abilities and not afraid to make use of them when needed. The other characters are human and frail, some much more so than others. This is not because they are poorly written; it is more because some people are frailer than the norm. The story line is complex. This makes for interesting reading. The book as a whole is less dark than some of Doiron's earlier works, although dark subjects are certainly an inherent part of the plot. All in all, if Doiron as a writer is your kind of guy, this novel should speak to you.

§ P.J Coldren: I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs..

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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