“One Last Lie,” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur)
Fifteen years ago, a young Maine game warden went undercover to investigate a poaching ring in Maine’s north woods and was never heard from again; so his mentor, retired warden Charlie Stevens, is stunned when he stumbles onto the missing man’s badge being offered for sale at a flea market.
The discovery, Charlie realizes, means everything he had believed about his young friend’s disappearance and presumed death was wrong. Determined to solve the mystery, he rushes home, packs a bag, tells his wife not to ask any questions, and urges her not to let anyone —especially his friend Mike Bowditch — try to find him. But Charlie is like a father to Mike, so the latter, a game warden himself, sets off to track Charlie down.
So begins “One Last Lie,” the eleventh novel in Paul Doiron’s fine series of Mike Bowditch crime novels.
Mike and Charlie’s dual investigations lead them on a dangerous journey through forests and ramshackle riverside towns along the Maine-Canadian border. Gradually, Mike discovers that Charlie, as well as several men in positions of power in the warden service, have been harboring secrets about what happened 15 years ago — and at least one of them is willing to kill to prevent the truth from surfacing.
This novel is something of a departure for Doiron. The lyrical descriptions of the natural world that have distinguished his previous novels are less in evidence this time, and the suspenseful, fast-paced plot has more twists and turns than usual in a Mike Bowditch novel.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s daughter, Stacey, Mike’s first true love, resurfaces, complicating Mike’s relationship with fellow warden Dani Tate. The last chapter warns that Mike’s always tumultuous love life may be headed for more trouble in the next installment of the Mike Bowditch saga.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”