The shooting of Afghanistan War vet Jimmy Gannon by Sergeant Kathy Frost, a Maine game warden, triggers a reaction that pits the dead soldier’s war buddies against the wardens, resulting in the attempted murder of Sgt. Frost in her own home. No longer a game warden, Mike Bowditch—now a freelance hunting and fishing guide—has just terminated an uncomfortable conversation with Frost on her doorstep when, leaving Kathy’s property, he instinctively turns back—just in time to save her life and put himself in the middle of the attack.
Mike’s history as a warden is sketchy, his personal history marred by an ill-conceived defense of his career-criminal father and his inability to follow the directives of superiors, chronically called to account for his actions. Walking away from his job as a warden, though oddly suited to the rigorous, often dangerous situations incurred in that position, Mike’s decision to leave was particularly hurtful to Frost, his mentor, who had put her career on the line more than once on his behalf. Now, with Kathy’s attacker at large and with no legal authority behind him, Bowditch experiences the unfamiliar restraints of a citizen attempting to learn the details of an official investigation from the outside.
Though he hasn’t seen Jimmy Gannon, the Afghan vet, since the young man’s return from the war, Bowditch is saddened to learn that his former friend was badly scarred, nearly unrecognizable due to the severity of his facial wounds and certainly depressed enough to initiate an action described as “suicide by cop” in order to end a life that has become unbearable. The son of wealthy parents, Jimmy’s future was shattered by the damage he sustained in service to his country. It isn’t surprising, then, that Gannon’s fellow vets should take umbrage at the way he died, the senseless tragedy of a lost life, but the attack on Sgt. Frost is equally as outrageous.
This is the scenario Mike faces as he begins his investigation into Kathy’s shooting, not ready or willing to accept a pat solution or place blame on fellow ex-soldiers until he has researched other aspects of his mentor’s life. While Frost remains in a coma, Bowditch juggles his attempts to breech the animosity of his former fellow wardens to visit her with forays into areas of interest that offer more insight into the attempted murder, from a visit to Gammon’s grieving family to a frustrating attempt to keep Kathy’s alcoholic brother from self-destructing. Armed with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of rage, the brother is pursuing the most tangential of leads, creating chaos in his wake that ultimately puts both him and Bowditch in grave danger.
While Bowditch ruminates on the recent disastrous results of his romantic entanglements, his main focus is on Kathy’s attacker, as well as a dawning realization of how much he misses his career as a game warden and how foolish he has been in refusing to follow the recommendations of those who only wanted him to succeed. While inter-departmental politics finally undid his association with the wardens, Mike has begun to appreciate the fact that career satisfaction easily outweighs the complications inherent in the job.
Essentially, as Frost fights for her life and Bowditch tracks the man behind the vicious assault, he accepts the truth about his own behavior as a warden, conscious that he really wants to be a game warden and has made a grave error in judgment. Despite the drama and the violent brushes with a determined killer, the novel is a reflection on Mike Bowditch’s growing maturity and recognition of mistakes, craving only redemption in the eyes of his mentor and those he respects. There’s something to be said for the expedience of a badge and a gun—and for the willingness to take orders and follow directions without the need to compromise one’s integrity.