Trespasser by Paul Doiron – Mystery-Thriller Book Review – Asian Murder, ATV Adventure, and Amore

Twenty-five-year-old Mike Bowditch is a passionate Maine state game warden. It’s been seven months since the ordeal with his father, Jack Bowditch at Rum Pond (consider reading Doiron’s award-nominated debut novel, The Poacher’s Son as a preface to Trespasser).

Bowditch responds to a dispatcher’s call to investigate a deer/car collision on Parker Point Road. He arrives to find a damaged, red, rental sedan, and deer bloodstains in the middle of the road, but no driver, no deer.

What happened to the driver and the deer? Who anonymously alerted the authorities from the pay phone at Smitty’s Garage two miles away about the accident?

The rental car agreement found in the glove compartment indicates the current driver as Ashley Kim, 23, from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

State trooper, Curt Hutchins arrives at the scene soon after Bowditch. He assures him that he’ll continue pursuit of Kim, now that it’s a state police matter. Bowditch is skeptical. Something’s not right and Bowditch knows it.

Bowditch is compelled to do his own investigation of Ashley Kim’s disappearance. He entails the help of town clerk, MaryBeth Fickett and legendary, retired warden pilot, Charley Stevens. Stevens befriended Bowditch during his search for his father.

Fickett discovers that Hans Westergaard owns a summer home not far from the accident site. Westergaard is also from Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Harvard Business School professor. The Kim/Westergaard connection is too close to ignore. Bowditch calls Westergaard’s wife, Jill, and learns that Kim was her husband’s research assistant. She informs him too, that Hans left for a conference the day before and hasn’t been heard from since.

Bowditch and Stevens explore the capacious, oceanfront Westergaard home where they discover the mutilated corpse of Ashley Kim. The killer had carved the word SLUT on her body. With no sign of Westergaard, early suspicions focus on a romantic liaison between the two gone sour.

Seven years ago, Earland Jefferts, an affable, handsome, former lobsterman, was convicted of murdering twenty-year old, Nikki Donatelli. The crime occurred on a hot July night after drinking and seduction at the Harpoon Bar. Interestingly, Bowditch learns that Donatelli’s body also had the word SLUT carved into her body.

The J-Team, led by Jeffert’s aunt, Lou Bates, is determined to win him a new trial; convinced the prosecution did a botched job of presenting the evidence. They approach Bowditch about joining their mission. He initially declines. But, given the similarities between the Kim/Donatelli murders, he finds himself drawn into investigating Jeffert’s conviction.

Danica Marshall is the Assistant Attorney General who helped prosecute Earland Jefferts. Often referred to as a “courthouse sex symbol,” and “Black Widow,” she warns Bowditch to stop investigating Ashley Kim’s death, and revisiting the details of Jeffert’s conviction.

The Square Deal Diner is the town’s gossip hub. Upon entering, Bowditch has been the topic of conversation, both during his father’s disappearance and Ashley Kim’s murder.

Adventure accentuates Trespasser, as Bowditch engages in a death-defying ATV chase on an ice-filled, snow-driven night to lure local Calvin Barter. Bowditch is sure he’s the culprit whose ATV tracks have been ruining neighbor, Hank Varnum’s property: ” I shifted into a lower gear and gassed it, aiming for as much momentum as possible and hoping to hell my wheels didn’t lose traction on the icy surface.”

Bowditch met his live-in girlfriend, Sarah, during college. Despite her affluent upbringing, she was attracted to his raw, love for the outdoors. “She recognized something feral underneath my clean-cut exterior, and like many good girls from proper families, she was aroused by the scent of danger.”

His affinity for danger, both during the search for his father and now in the Ashley Kim murder investigation, have take its toll on their relationship. Her tolerance for his availability, both physically and emotionally, have peaked, especially now that she’s secretly pregnant.

Well-written fiction mirrors reality, often presenting insightful dialogue. One of the best lines in Trespasser worth contemplating is “You never really know someone until they’re no longer in your life.”

If you enjoy reading crime fiction, you’ll appreciate Doiron’s newish voice. It’s one that’s sure to become more recognizable over time.

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Book Review: Blue Heaven, a Mystery Thriller by CJ Box, a Tale That Will Keep Readers Reading

Review: Blue Heaven by C.J. Box… In this mystery set in North Idaho, C.J. Box has gathered a diverse group of characters, among them:

A tough and headstrong rancher who is trying to save his family’s once-thriving property from creditors

A UPS driver who is dating the mother of two children who turn up missing

A rural mail carrier who has a hankering to be the center of attention, even if she has to get a little fanciful about the tales she tells

Mysterious men spied upon by a young girl who gives them made-up names-Driver, Ball Cap Man, Dark Man, and Wavy-Haired Man

The driver of a red pickup truck who may, or maybe not, be the salvation of two youngsters

A banker who finally understands the shocking consequences of his decisions.

Retired LAPD police officers who seem to find this area just right for their “final resting place”

The local sheriff, a weak-kneed sort, who takes the easiest way out, no matter what harm it may do

A volunteer search party, which includes some volunteers who are up to no good

Box weaves these characters and many others, both two- and four-footed, into an uncompromising, unsentimental, suspenseful tale that, in the manner of a well-plotted hard-boiled mystery, has good and evil built into its characters. Even though we are on the outside looking in, and we see the various threads that weave themselves into this mystery, it isn’t easy to separate the good from the evil, and the reader is shoved back and forth between yes-he-did-it-and-no-she-didn’t almost from the opening scenes.

Jess, his central character, isn’t playing at being a rancher; he is the working owner of a working ranch, as were his father and grandfather before him-and he has no intention of giving up and walking away, leaving his land to be used for purposes he cannot accept. He leads a tough, lonely life these days, making hard decisions that are forced on him by circumstance.

Still, the reader soon sees Jess for what he is-one of the good guys, the really good ones, who try always to make decisions based on what’s the best thing for everyone in whatever situation they find themselves in. But Jess is surrounded by corruption and venality, some of it he can see and sense, some of it well hidden, existing in people he should be able to trust.

He soon finds that he must take a step, make a decision that could change his life and that of two innocent youngsters. And not in a good way. But, Jess is Jess, one of the good guys every good mystery needs, and he risks his home, his good name, maybe even his life to find and stamp out the evil that is growing around him.

This story goes to the limit in mystery guessing games, although Box always gives readers a fair chance to decide for ourselves before he outfoxes us. And he sets up interesting conundrums for us to mull over while we’re reading, and maybe for days after we’ve finished the story and the mystery is solved. A well-plotted mystery such as Blue Heaven raises many ethical and moral issues along with the requisite legal ones.

We find ourselves wondering:

Why do men who have spent their lives in law enforcement tarnish the badges they wore for years by falling so far away from their oath to serve and protect?

Why do bankers in a remote mountain community in Idaho fall into today’s temptations and find themselves mimicking their counterparts in the financial centers of the country?

Why do some men and women cling to the right path, even when it would be so much easier to just take that one step across the line that separates right from wrong.

Box makes us think about these things, but never steps away from the characterizations he has built, and resists the temptation to lecture his readers as some authors do. Box describes the rugged North Idaho mountain country and its equally rugged residents from the point of view of a man who knows the area and loves it. Jess’s love for his ranch and the community around it is easy to see and understand; he belongs in this place and time.

As the story wound its way through treachery and hate and fear, through courage and honesty and love, I found myself so involved with Jess that I almost stopped reading, fearing that Box would end it in what for me would be the wrong way.

But of course I read to the end. Was it the right conclusion to Jess’s story, from my point of view? Every writer and every reader knows that there is really no such thing as a right or a wrong way to finish a mystery, or any kind of fiction, for that matter. So I leave that question unanswered.

Blue Heaven is a bang-up good read, lots of action, lots of twists and turns of plot, just the right number of good and evil characters. You’ll have to decide for yourself about the conclusion

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