“Dead Man’s Wake,” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur)
Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch’s on-again, off-again romance with Stacey Stevens is definitely on again, the pair celebrating their engagement at a relative’s lake house when the night is interrupted by the roar of watercraft racing at illegally high speeds.
“Let it go, Mike,” Stacey says. “For me.”
“OK,” he replies.
But then both hear a disturbing sound — not the screech of two boats colliding but rather the thump of a craft hitting something submerged in the water. Together, they borrow their host’s party boat and venture out to investigate. Not long after, as they near acre-size Mouse Island, Stacy spots something skidding along in the current.
It’s a severed human arm.
So begins “Dead Man’s Wake,” the 13th novel in Paul Doiron’s fine series of mysteries featuring Bowditch.
By morning, as the local lake constable, state police detectives, and more game wardens descend on the scene, the submerged body of a middle-age man with a missing arm is recovered from the lake. Then another body, that of a 22-year-old woman, is pulled from the water, too.
The dead man is identified as Kipling Whitcomb, whose wealthy invalid wife Dianne owns Mouse Island. The dead woman is 22-year-old Gina Randazza, the latest in a string of young women Whitcomb has lured to his island love nest. When an autopsy confirms that Randazza was strangled before entering the water, what started off as an accident investigation expands into something larger.
State Police Det. Roger Finch takes charge of the murder case, initially focusing his attention on Randazza’s husband Joey, a sketchy member of the Direwolves motorcycle gang. However, there proves to be no shortage of suspects. Bowditch, meanwhile, is responsible solely for learning who drove the boat that dismembered Whitcomb.
Inevitably, the two investigations overlap, but Bowditch, a hothead with a disinclination to follow orders when he was first introduced in “The Poacher’s Son” in 2010, has gradually matured as the series progressed. This time, he tries to stay in his lane, but inevitably, with able assistance from Stacy and her father, a retired game warden, he uncovers evidence that breaks the case.
As usual, Doiron creates an array of colorful, well-drawn characters, writes in vivid, graceful style, and accurately portray investigative procedures — this time including the handling of underwater crime scenes. He spins his tale with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing until the end.