BUSHNELL ON BOOKS: ‘Dead By Dawn’ and ‘Maine Al Fresco’

DEAD BY DAWN by Paul Doiron; Minotaur Books, 2021; 320 pages, $27.99; ISBN 978-1-250-23510-7.

DEAD BY DAWN

Maine Game Warden investigator Mike Bowditch is like a cat with nine lives, except he’s used up most of them in previous books. He’s only got a few lives left and he may run out of those in this latest novel, “Dead By Dawn.”

This is the 12th mystery featuring Mike Bowditch by best-selling, award-winning author Paul Doiron of coastal Maine. This is clearly the most violent, bloody, suspenseful and fast-paced story yet. The series already enjoys a long run of well-deserved popularity, as Doiron smartly combines crime, investigation, suspense, wood-craft and action with colorful, quirky and often dangerous characters in original, timely plots. And this novel won the 2022 Maine Literary Award for crime fiction.

Each book in this series seems better than the last, and this latest tale is the most exciting and deadly mess Mike has ever been in. In a bitterly cold December, right before Christmas, Mike reopens a four-year-old cold case—the apparent accidental death of a wealthy professor. But the victim’s daughter-in-law claims it was murder.

After interviewing the woman and her weird daughter, Mikes senses something is wrong. Both women are lying, so he interviews other people involved in the cold case who also lie to him, including the original investigator, a disgraced and angry ex-warden who hates Mike’s guts.

Mike’s investigation upsets somebody, because he is soon ambushed on an icy road and nearly killed. And that’s just the start of his problems. Pursued by gunmen on snowmobiles, Mike is unarmed, freezing and wounded — he is the prey for a change. However, he is resourceful, and despite coldblooded murder, gunfights, stabbings, blackmail, a pile of dead bodies and bad luck, he finally recognizes who he’s dealing with and why. And it’s not pretty.

MAINE AL FRESCO: THE FIFTY FINEST OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN MAINE by Ron Chase; North Country Press, 2021; 271 pages, $24.95; ISBN 978-1-943424-70-2.

MAINE AL FRESCO: THE FIFTY FINEST OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN MAINE

Topsham author Ron Chase’s 50 finest outdoor adventures are very personal and meaningful for him (he actually completed 49, and observed one). What he doesn’t state outright, but readers will see immediately, is that these adventures are not for the meek or weak. Timid lovers need not apply.

Chase is an avid, experienced outdoorsman who at age 74 writes a column called “Seniors Not Acting Their Age.” He notably climbed the 100 highest peaks in New England in the winter, and is a proud member of the Penobscot Paddling and Chowder Society, a group of like-minded outdoor adventurers.

This is a travel guide for hardy souls who might want to climb Mount Katahdin in winter, backpack the North Woods with 80 pounds of gear, paddle a sea kayak 41 miles around Isle au Haut, or run the dangerous whitewater rapids of Gulf Hagas in a canoe.

Sections highlight mountain hikes, bike trails, sea kayaking, whitewater canoeing, lake paddling, canoe and backpack trips, and two popular canoe and kayak races. Chase provides detailed descriptions of each adventure and his own experiences, as well as location, travel directions, length, difficulty levels (most are strenuous or very difficult), and potential hazards like “injury, death or loss of boats are real possibilities.”

He is brutally honest with his cautions. If people want to tackle these adventures they must be physically and mentally fit, experienced, well-equipped and trained, never go alone, and don’t take unnecessary risks (instincts and weather reports are reliable).

The book comes up short, however, as he never explains jargon like “scouting,” “portage,” “throwbags” and “strainers,” or the meanings of whitewater difficulty ratings and water levels — “Release 3500 CFS, Class III/IV “is meaningless to the uninitiated.

Best advice: Extra adrenaline pack.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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