MASSACRE POND by Paul Doiron, July 16, 2013, Minotaur Books, 309 Pages, hardcover, $24.99
Author Paul Doiron knows what Mainers are going to think when they read his latest novel, “Massacre Pond.”
Doiron knows many residents of the Pine Tree State will recognize one of the key characters. He knows that they’ll recognize one of the key plot points.
But he’s careful to point out that Elizabeth “Betty” Morse, the hippie-turned-cosmetics-millionaire who plays a key role in “Massacre Pond,” is not Roxanne Quimby. Even though both the fictional character and the real-life Maine activist each share the goal of buying up Maine forestland and turning it into a National Park.
And the fact that several moose meet a cruel demise in the early pages of “Massacre Pond” is not meant to reflect on a similar incident that actually took place in Soldiertown Township in 1999.
“Novels often start with the question of ‘what if?’ and so it was with ‘Massacre Pond,’” Doiron explains in an author’s note. “Again, this is entirely a work of fiction, which is why I have moved my proposed park to eastern Maine, near the existing Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.”
Quimby’s proposed park is envisioned much farther north, many outdoorsy Mainers will gladly tell you.
With that disclaimer out of the way, grant Doiron this: He’s got guts, taking on such hot-button topics as a North Woods National Park and the still officially unsolved Soldiertown moose massacre, and linking the pair together in a fictional work.
And that work is — as usual — masterful.
Doiron, who toils by day as the editor-in-chief of Down East magazine, has quickly become one of the state’s top literary properties. And in “Massacre Pond” — his fourth Mike Bowditch thriller — he raises the bar once again.
Bowditch is the main character, a flawed Maine game warden who seemingly stumbles into cases that many — including his superiors and those who work for other law enforcement agencies — wish he hadn’t.
Quick-tempered and dogged, Bowditch has a hard time backing down, even when he knows it would be in his best interest to do so.
The result is a series of books that leave readers alternately rooting for Bowditch and wishing someone would slap some sense into him.
“Massacre Pond” is no different. Doiron uses the real-life Quimby as a rough template for the Betty Morse character, but that’s as far as the comparison goes. Adding in the senseless slaughter of several moose, a la Soldiertown, is another touch that adds tension, and reality, to a page-turning tale.
Mainers will feel that tension more than most, I’d reckon; it’s hard to find someone in this state who doesn’t have an opinion on hippies-turned-cosmetics-millionaires, especially when folks like that want to buy up forestland and establish a national park.
And even if they’re doing so fictionally, of course.
Of interest to potential Doiron fans who haven’t made the leap into the Bowditch saga: Minotaur Books sent out a press release late last week to inform us that “Bad Little Falls,” Doiron’s popular second book, will hit bookstores as a paperback on July 9.
And while I suppose readers could pick up any Doiron title and enjoy the experience on its own, this is a series I’d advise you to read in order.
Bowditch, as Doiron has told me, is a work in progress. He makes mistakes along the way, and is slowly figuring out who he is and what he stands for. More simply, Bowditch is growing up — sometimes in fits and starts — but he is making progress. And that journey is an important part of the Doiron and Bowditch experience.
Do yourself a favor. Start with “The Poacher’s Son.” Advance to “Trespasser.” Then breeze through “Bad Little Falls.” Then, advance to the superb “Massacre Pond” … and wait eagerly for next year’s installment.