Widowmaker: a new mystery novel

Dan CassidyINside the OUTside
by Dan Cassidy

If you’re a skier who either lives or commutes to the western mountains of Maine or just enjoys reading great mystery novels, Widowmaker and Precipice, along with others by a local author are must read books.

The seventh in a series of novels by author Paul Doiron, Widowmaker takes place in a western Maine ski area in and around the Franklin county area.  There are five other books, authored by Doiron, that are on my to do reading list.

In this novel, Doiron portrays the fictitious Alpine Ski Academy, located at the base of the also fictitious Widowmaker Ski Resort that is about a game warden named Mike Bowditch.  Bowditch takes us to some actual locations including Saddleback, in Rangeley, and Sugarloaf, in Carrabassett Valley.  You’ll also find descriptions of people who live and work there and others who visit the area to ski.  Bowditch, a graduate of Colby College, in Waterville, grew up in the western mountains of Maine as the son of an infamous poacher.

Paul Doiron’s first novel, The Poacher’s Son, (printed by Minotaur Books, New York, 2011) describes Bowditch’s unstable upbringing as the son of an alcoholic womanizer who spent time in ski bars after his shifts on the grooming crew at Widowmaker Mountain, when he wasn’t in the woods poaching animals. “Sugarloafer’s will recognize that my fictional resort, Widowmaker is a more downscale version of their mountain,” Doiron said.

Other novels by author Paul Doiron include, Trespasser, Bad Little Falls, Massacre Pond, and The Bone Orchard.  His first book, the Poacher’s Son, won the Barry and the Strand Critics Award and was nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, a Macavity and a Thriller Award.  His second novel, Trespasser, received the Maine Literary Award, according to a recent press release.  Doiron’s sixth book, the Precipice, was a Library Reads selection and ABA best seller.  His novels have been translated into ten languages.  Doiron is Editor Emeritus of Down East Magazines and a registered Maine Guide.  He lives on a trout stream in mid-coast Maine.

“I suppose I had two inspirations for this book, which is the seventh in a series,” Doiron said in an e-mail interview.  “In the first novel, the Poacher’s Son, Mike Bowditch’s life and his sense of the world are completely upended,” he said.  “He struggles with his sense of betrayal in the subsequent books, but I really felt the time had arrived for him to have closure with the bitter memory of his later father, Jack, who was this sort of towering figure, for bad, but also good, in his early life.”

Coming back to reality, Doiron said there was no real warden whom Mike Bowditch was based on.  “I am sure the Warden Service would consider a good thing!  He represents aspects of my own personality, of course, especially in the early books.  His bravery, his commitment to seeing justice service, his knowledge of the outdoors, I’ve also met younger wardens who started reading my novels before they applied to the service and many of them identify with Mike.  Hearing that is always a wonderful thing.

Doiron said that the local warden in Carrabassett Valley, Scott Stevens, was good enough to give me a tour of the district and answer a lot of my questions along the way.

One of Bowditch’s female confidants, Stacy plays a major role in the book.  “Stacy is based on several female wildlife biologists I’ve known, and they’ve almost all stuck me as being more dedicated than their male counterparts,” he said.  “Partly it’s because the sciences are a discipline where women have still had to prove themselves.  Her personality is largely fictional and any resemblance she might bear to certain girlfriends I had in my youth are entirely coincidental.”

The vivid depiction of the region of Maine between Saddleback and Sugarloaf, complete with the contrast between the locals and the more privileged skiers from away make this novel a real page-turner, according to a recent press release.

The Precipice

The other book I read this summer was titled The Precipice, that takes place along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail where two female hikers disappear near the 100-mile Wilderness and Gulf Hagas.  It’s here that warden Mike Bowditch and wildlife biologist Stacy Stevens get involved in the search of the missing hikers and get wrapped up in several encounters.

So, if you’re interested in reading some thriller novels before the snow flies, check these books out.  You just may not be able to put them down.

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