In Massacre Pond, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is caught up in an investigation that will cause him to question his career choice, his personal relationships and the lessons yet to learn in the next phase of his life. Accompanied by his friend Billy Cronk, conceivably “the biggest badass in the Maine woods” but for Cronk’s tender heart and love of nature, Bowditch discovers a series of dead moose on the private land of Mrs. Elizabeth Morse, who plans to turn her recently-purchased acreage into a national park. At final count, there are ten animals murdered by persons unknown, the worst such case in Maine history. The message is hardly subtle: “Queen Elizabeth” has collected a number of enemies from those who will certainly lose their jobs should her grand scheme be successful. There are two sides to the argument between environmentalists and hunters, but the massacre of these helpless animals incites national headlines and creates a nightmare for law enforcement agencies.
Bowditch has carefully kept a low profile since his last adventure, not looking to make waves this time. He hardly gets a chance to attract attention, sidelined early on by an ambitious lieutenant not taking any chance of being shown up. An instinctive investigator, Bowditch is thoughtful and thorough, inclined to take his time when working through the vagaries of a case before making arrests. Given assignments beneath his abilities, he bites the bullet, determined not to incur his superiors’ wrath. Still, he is unable to resist being drawn into a controversy that deeply affects the community from the wealthy Mrs. Morse and her minions to the local businesses, random hunters and eccentrics. Law enforcement spreads a wide net for evidence or clues leading to the perpetrators. Old friends Charley and Ora Stevens are part of the novel, as is their daughter, Stacey, who works for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. She is unfortunately engaged to Matt Skillen, the handsome scion of the owner of Skillen Lumber.
Dorion knows his wilderness landscape and his protagonist, allowing Bowditch the maturity and emotional weight to carry off this series. The conflicts, both personal and professional, require patience, self-examination and a respect for the law of the land. Coming into frequent contact with hunters of every stripe, Mike meets both the cooperative and the unruly, especially since Mrs. Morse's intended creation of a national park that will put a lot of local folks out of work and further strain the economy. Given the nature of the wilderness and those it attracts, many of Mike's adversaries are engaged in criminal activities, whether poaching, dealing drugs, or the more nefarious recent pursuits intended to scare off a wealthy woman and her big plans. Each side of the conflict has outspoken advocates and fringe-dwellers, whether on behalf of the environment or those who thrive on the bounty of the wilderness.
His interactions with superiors, coworkers, friends and acquaintances both hone Bowditch's patience and teach him the fundamentals of human relationships, from the encouragement of some advocates in the warden service to his enduring friendship with Charley and Ora Stevens, from his frustrating romantic attraction to Stacey and aversion to her fiancé to the distress of knowing his friend Billy is keeping vital information to himself. Most instructive is the emotional quandary in which Mike finds himself: the strained relationship with his mother, whom he has chosen to avoid for the last few years only to run out of time. He is a complicated character, defining himself through his job as a game warden, learning to control his investigative instincts within appropriate guidelines (in spite of his successes in operating outside the lines), examining his methods of communication (or lack thereof) with loved ones, and balancing his need for isolation with his need of human comfort.
The massacre of animals offers Bowditch an opportunity to walk on both sides of the fence, his passion fueled by the senseless slaughter and a tragic, unnecessary death. Faced with the violence of the perpetrators, the foolishness of a friend with much to lose and an inability to comfort a woman facing a painful truth, Mike Bowditch leaves it all behind in a desperate attempt to make peace with his past and his future. Much is left unfinished, leaving more adventure to come from Doiron's imagination.