"Bad Little Falls" by Paul Doiron
Reviewed by David Marshall James
It's the dead of February, Way Down East.
Washington County, Maine, bears the distinction of being the Easternmost point in the Continental USA. Aside from that, there's little to recommend it at this iced-over, subzero time of year, unless you're into joyriding snowmobiles, stoned out of your mind, as more than a few local youths do.
Maine game warden Mike Bowditch has been recently assigned to this less-than-hospitable area, as this third novel by Maine author Paul Doiron commences.
To be sure, many of the locals prove scarcely more endearing than the frigid world in which they dwell.
Warden Bowditch is having a time of it in seemingly every facet of his young life.
His fiancee has parted ways, trading in the Down East for D.C.
Actually, that's a blessing for those concerned, as that marriage wouldn't have lasted through two winters.
Being the spouse of a game warden is an exceptionally stressful calling under the best of circumstances, with one's husband/wife on-call 24/7, often summoned to disputes involving booze, drugs, and guns.
Mike's relationship with his upwardly mobile mother and her second husband is fractious at best, while Mike's father was an outstanding bad example.
As the snowstorms settle in on Mike's bleak new life, he encounters a nearby family even more dysfunctional than his own.
At least his mother traded up in the husband department.
The attractive, young, neighborhood mother has had a codependent fling with the drug-dealing pal of her ne'er-do-well brother. Meanwhile, her sister has suffered a brain injury in the auto wreck that claimed their parents' lives.
No surprise, then, that the recovering addict's -- who has caught Mike's eye, among other body parts-- son is a candidate for some serious counseling.
Mike-- please don't go there. Mike ... Mike ....
If only he had a decent relationship with his mother, she would slap some sense into him.
What has made this three-novels-and-counting series remarkable from the get-go is the author's familiarity with his real-turned-literary landscapes, with the accompanying climate that drives people who dare dwell in such places a little crazy.
It's an overall landscape at the mercy of the ice and cold, once shaped by glaciers that carved out ponds and lakes, sliced through mountains, and deposited boulders that only space aliens could hope to move.
If winter comes for Warden Bowditch-- and it certainly has-- can spring be far behind?
The author sets the stage for a positive relationship in the protagonist's future. Oh, there's a rock in the path, but it's small. Expensive, but small.
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