This taut, tightly-plotted novel was a surprise, tense from the beginning as a son struggles to prove his father innocent when the whole world judges him guilty. A hard-drinking, womanizing poacher, Jack Bowditch has carved a legend in the Maine North Woods where he works at a hunting camp but delights in blatantly flouting the law.
Ever since his childhood, Mike Bowditch has known his father as a maverick, a bar fighter with a quick temper, but when a deputy and the corporate representative of a Canadian company are ambushed and murdered after a town meeting, Mike refuses to believe Jack is capable of the cold-blooded crimes. After generations on the land, the Canadian company is soon to evict leaseholders from their property and livelihoods along the coast. There are others, Mike thinks, who might have more compelling motives for the murders.
Caught between his emotional upheaval about Jack and his responsibilities as a warden, still aching over a painful breakup with his long-term girlfriend, Mike is compelled to insert himself into the investigation, earning the ire of the other deputies and wardens. And while chapters dealing with Mike’s past experiences with Jack underscore the volatility of their fragile relationship, the demands of his job and the investigation lead Mike to a dark place. Law enforcement goes into high gear, Mike understanding the necessity of keeping him far removed from the action, but his desperate belief in his father’s innocence pushes Mike farther out on a bridge of no return.
The characters are well-drawn, distrustful cops who question Mike’s motives, a mother who has buried her feelings for ex-husband Jack in a new marriage, a job that Mike loves but puts in jeopardy with each ill-timed and impulsive action. Tangled in emotions that have been dormant throughout his childhood, Mike cannot give up on his distant, irresponsible father, even at the cost of his warden’s job. With the help of a beloved semi-retired game warden, Mike revisits the places in his past- and the memories they evoke- determined to make the authorities pay attention to what is so clear to the son: someone has framed Jack for the crimes.
In a painful reckoning, Mike must answer for his decisions in the heat of passion and make the difficult choices of a man with a badge in a lawless place. Emotions run high as a young man the ideal father he never had, a man who never existed save in the boy’s imagination. From the first page to the last, a flawed relationship is laid bare in all its defeats and illusions, two men at the turning point where the truth is the only alternative.