Sunday, July 8, 2018


STAY HIDDEN by Paul Doiron (Minotaur, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A woman has been shot to death by a deer hunter on an island off the coast of Maine. To newly promoted Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch, the case seems open and shut. But as soon as he arrives on remote Maquoit Island he discovers mysteries piling up one on top of the other. 

The hunter now claims he didn’t fire the fatal shot and the ballistic evidence proves he’s telling the truth. Bowditch begins to suspect the secretive community might be covering up the identity of whoever killed Ariel Evans. The controversial author was supposedly writing a book about the island's notorious hermit. So why are there no notes in her rented cottage? 

The biggest blow comes the next day when the weekly ferry arrives and off steps the dead woman herself ...

Among a seemingly skyrocketing trend of domestic noir, unreliable narrators, and unlikable characters, Maine author Paul Doiron offers something rather timeless: an engaging series centred on an honourable and interesting detective operating in a distinct and well-evoked setting.

STAY HIDDEN is the ninth Mike Bowditch mystery, and it sees the Maine game warden finding his feet in his new role of Warden Investigator. Doiron, who was a longtime magazine editor in Maine and is a keen outdoorsman (fisherman) himself, has a really great touch for the rural and wilderness setting of his home state. This is not your fictional Maine of Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote fame - it is wilder, grittier, filled with more struggle among some spectacular scenery.

Bowditch is flown to remote Maquoit Island off the Maine coast following the fatal shooting of a controversial journalist during hunting season. He's still dealing with debris from a broken relationship, making the journey tougher given his ex's father is also on board. What Bowditch and his superiors first think is an open-and-shut hunting accident turns into anything but, especially when the purported culprit turns out to just be a witness. So a killer is still at large. Things get even more complicated when the dead woman later arrives on the island ferry, planning to interview a notorious hermit who fled his Hollywood lifestyle many years ago following his wife's suspicious death.

So who pulled the trigger and killed the victim, and who was the victim?

Hemmed in by feuding islanders and a building media furore - not to mention his bosses back on the mainland who are keen for a quick resolution that doesn't create too much hassle - Bowditch struggles to prove himself in his new role, stumbling through the fog, figuratively and literally.

This is an intriguing and clever mystery that flows along wonderfully. Throughout the unfolding story, Doiron fashions a really exquisite portrait of isolated communities on the Atlantic seaboard, island towns full of lobstering families and traditions who face many challenges while leading a modern frontier lifestyle. You can feel the salt spray, the ruggedness of the landscapes and the people who populate them. Strong and nuanced characterisation blends with a striking sense of place.

This is the first Mike Bowditch mystery I've read, but it certainly won't be the last. Doiron is a great storyteller, and this is astute and multifaceted crime writing. Recommended.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter

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