Book Review: An Unarmed Game Warden Tracks A Killer Through The Maine Wilderness In 'PItch Dark'

This cover image released by Minotaur shows "Pitch Dark" by Paul Doiron. (Minotaur via AP)
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "Pitch Dark" by Paul Doiron. (Minotaur via AP)
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Heavy storms have made much of northern Maine impassible. Streams and rivers are overflowing their banks, and logging roads and forest trails are crisscrossed with toppled trees. It’s no time to go exploring or hunting, so why has a heavily armed stranger rented an ATV and disappeared into the wilderness?

Game Warden Mike Bowditch thinks he may have a missing person case on his hands, but when he finds out that the stranger has been offering large sums of cash for information about the whereabouts of a guy calling himself Mark Redmond, he senses bigger trouble.

So begins “Pitch Dark,” the 15th book in Paul Doiron’s fine series of crime novels featuring Bowditch.

Redmond, it turns out, is at a remote lake-side camp with his 12-year-old daughter. A skilled builder, he’s constructing a log cabin there for a legendary bush pilot named Josie Jonson, a friend of Bowditch’s wife. Bowditch persuades Josie to pick him up in her helicopter and fly him up there, figuring on both looking for the missing stranger and warning Redmond that he might be in danger.

When Bowditch delivers the warning, however, Redmond shows neither surprise nor concern. Instead, he serves Bowditch and Josie cups of drug-laced coffee, strips them of their weapons and communications devices, wrecks the helicopter controls, and disappears into the forest with his daughter.

When Bowditch regains consciousness, he finds that Josie has choked to death on her own vomit, making Redmond a murderer. With no weapon, no vehicle and no way to call for assistance, Bowditch takes off after him anyway, determined to hunt the killer down before he escapes into Canada.

Tracking a villain through a wilderness is something of a staple for crime novelists who set their stories in America’s remaining wild areas. For example, C.J. Box and William Kent Krueger, whose books are set in Wyoming and Minnesota respectively, have written good ones. However, it would be difficult to find one more suspenseful or with more startling twists than “Pitch Dark.” As always, Doiron’s characters are well-drawn, and his cold, rain-drenched setting is so vividly portrayed that readers may find themselves shivering.


Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”


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