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

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've read all of the Mike Bowditch books, and when I reviewed DEAD BY DAWN, the previous book in the series, I felt that Mike and the series were at a crossroads. In HATCHET ISLAND, there is a shift from the high velocity action of previous books to a slightly more contemplative stage in Mike's life. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of danger and action and, as always, Doiron writes vividly about nature. But Mike has taken on a more responsible role in Maine's Game Warden Service, he's reconnected with an old love and is thinking about settling down, and this time the nature relates to the ocean and the action to kayaking.

Mike and his ex/new girlfriend, Stacey, have decided to enjoy a romantic idyll on a remote Maine island when an old friend of hers asks for help at a nearby island that serves as a puffin sanctuary. Mike and Stacey stop by on the way to their campsite, finding leaderless staff members worried about their safety. This is nothing compared to what they find when they return the following day. What happened in those intervening hours, and who is responsible, is the source of the action in the book, while what happens at their remote campsite is the source of Mike's relationship ruminations. Mike's responses to these events demonstrate a relatively newfound maturity.

Doiron does a wonderful job of evoking the sights, sounds, and feelings of the ocean setting. Whether it's on top of the water or under it, the dangers it holds feel very real to the reader. And Doiron's descriptions of the birds at the sanctuary are as menacingly evocative as any of his previous writing about Maine's forest and its dangerous predators. Mike and Stacey are center-stage in this book, with Stacey helping Mike more than in previous books. Their characters continue to be well written and ever-evolving. The secondary characters are somewhat less than fully developed, in many cases, and there are a lot of them with occasionally mind-stretching motives. This is a quibble in a hugely engaging book, however.

The Bowditch books always finish their plots within the book, but nonetheless leave the reader wanting more. The ends of this mystery are tied up, but now I'm anxious to see what Mike will be up to in book

fourteen of the series in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later). HATCHET ISLAND could easily be a standalone, but having developed a relationship with Mike (and Stacey to some extent) over the previous dozen books of the series definitely added to my appreciation. Start here, and then go back to book 1 (THE POACHER'S SON), and you will be fortunate to build your own relationship with Mike Bowditch and the backwoods of Maine.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, July 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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