"Widowmaker" (Minotaur), by Paul Doiron
In the first few pages of Paul Doiron's "Widowmaker," game warden Mike Bowditch seizes an illegal animal (10 percent dog and 90 percent wolf) from a violent, drug addled couple; is stabbed in the back for his trouble; gets into a fight with his girlfriend; discovers he has a half brother; and learns that this newfound relative has violated his probation on a sex-offense conviction.
Any one of these things might have plunged Bowditch into a self-destructive spiral when we first met him in "The Poacher's Son" (2010). Back then, he was a hotheaded, newly minted game warden charged with catching poachers and keeping order in the wilds of Maine while struggling to keep his personal demons in check.
But in the next five novels in this fine series of crime novels — stories in which Bowditch witnessed horrific acts of cruelty, killed in self-defense, failed to save his outlaw father from dying at the hands of the police, lost and found love, barely avoided getting fired for insubordination and performed uncommon acts of courage and compassion — he gradually achieved a measure of self-knowledge and maturity.
So when the mother of the brother he never knew about asks him to track down the boy before the police do, both Bowditch and the reader wonder if he can do so without succumbing to his old demons.
"Widowmaker," book seven in the series, sends Bowditch deep into the snowbound mountains of northern Maine, where future Olympians train at an exclusive ski academy, military interrogators train at a top-secret installation and convicted sexual predators work as virtual slaves in a last-chance work camp.
The result is a violent, suspenseful, fast-paced tale written in Doiron's customary tight, vivid prose, with his keen eye for both idiosyncratic Maine characters and the beauty of the natural landscape.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "A Scourge of Vipers."