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'Massacre Pond' is a tense and clever mystery

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 16, 2013 at 9:48 am •  Published: July 16, 2013

"Massacre Pond" (Minotaur), by Paul Doiron

Elizabeth Morse, who made her fortune selling worthless herbal remedies to the gullible, is buying up huge parcels of timberland in Eastern Maine with the hope of persuading the federal government to turn it into a national park.

The locals, from the politicians and timber barons to the poachers and sawmill workers, don't like it one bit. She's put land they've fished and hunted for generations off-limits. Worse, she's killing forestry industry jobs.

So trouble is sure to come to the backwater of lakes and forests patrolled by Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, the hero of three earlier crime novels by Paul Doiron. It does so in the form of intruders who slip onto Morse's property, shoot some moose and leave the carcasses for scavengers.

The story was inspired by a failed attempt to create a North Woods National Park and by the unsolved 1999 "Soldiertown moose massacre," the worst wildlife crime in Maine history. However, Doiron has fictionalized all the details, moving the location far to the southeast.

Warden Bowditch itches to dive into the investigation, but his boss, self-serving Lt. Rivard, keeps him on the periphery with make-work assignments. Trying to live down a reputation for insubordination, Bowditch seethes but follows orders. Naturally, trouble finds him anyway. Before long, someone shoots up Morse's palatial home, victims with two legs start piling up, the press questions the baffled investigators' competence, and one of Bowditch's buddies, wildlife poacher Billy Cronk, emerges as a suspect.

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