‘Poacher’s Son’ fast-paced with realistic twists

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“The Poacher’s Son,” by Paul Doiron; Minotaur; 336 pages; $24.99

 Editor’s note: Author Paul Doiron will give a reading at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20, at Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers, 193 Broadway in Farmington.

 Mike Bowditch has always wanted a relationship with his father, Jack. But Jack never cared about being a husband, yet alone a father, and Mike’s main memories of his dad are of a brutal alcoholic who made his living poaching game and avoiding the law.

Now 24, Mike can believe his father capable of just about anything, but not murder. When Jack is accused of killing a cop and a timber company executive, Mike is the only one who believes in him. Mike’s faith in his father puts his job as a game warden in his native Maine at risk and alienates him from nearly everyone, including his ex-girlfriend, whom he still loves.

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Paul Doiron makes an outstanding gripping debut in “The Poacher’s Son.” Doiron’s rich exploration of characters shows people at their best and worst. Mike’s unshakeable belief in his father comes not from naiveté but from a sincere desire to be close to him, to have the kind of relationship that every child wants with his parents. This poacher’s son has unconditional love, but his father doesn’t. Mike knows that as a child he always got in the way of Jack’s “whiskey and women.” His father’s remoteness pushed Mike to become a game warden, “a solitary and morbid profession” where he does not have to “look too deeply in the dark of myself.”

Yet Doiron never makes Jack the caricature of a villain. Jack is a nasty piece of work — but Doiron makes him a multifaceted person with myriad emotions and motives.

Doiron, editor-in-chief of Down East magazine, showcases his native Maine’s beauty and how the pristine woods are giving way to developers. Doiron skillfully melds an outdoor adventure with a personal story of families.

“The Poacher’s Son” moves at a brisk pace with unpredictable but realistic twists that reach a crescendo at the shocking finale. “The Poacher’s Son” is proving to be one of the best debuts of the year. Doiron will likely be compared to C.J. Box and Nevada Barr.

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