Dead Man's Wake: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries, 14)

Image of Dead Man's Wake: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries, 14)
Release Date: 
June 27, 2023
Minotaur Books
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“In Dead Man’s Wake there are enough plausible suspects to keep readers guessing whodunit up to the climactic reveal.”

The hard part of keeping a long-running series fresh is not just inventing new adventures for the protagonist. Equally challenging is having the principle characters evolve as the stories mount up.

Author Paul Doiron is keeping pace with his suite of characters but especially the lead, Mike Bowditch, Maine game warden investigator. The hot-headed youth who began the series is steadily maturing, without leaving behind his zeal to protect and serve both the wilderness and the people who populate it. And get into trouble in it.

In Dead Man’s Wake, book 14 of the series, Mike jumps right into the title event even though it occurs in the middle of his engagement party.

Mike literally jumps in, as the hit-and-run boat accident occurs at night offshore of the party’s location, and he and his stepfather, father-in-law-to-be, and fiancée Stacey Stevens all zoom out to assist. This isn’t surprising . . . for when you work in law enforcement, and your fiancée is a wildlife biologist also working in emergency services, and your father-in-law-to-be is retired law enforcement as well as your mentor, well, you’re never truly off duty.

Mike’s attempt at water rescue brings up an arm instead of a body. The crime plot of the novel takes off from there. Turns out to be two murders: the swimmer and his illicit lover, connected to troubles past and present that lead Mike and his colleagues on a dramatic chase.

Included in this pursuit are elements signature to the series. One is realistic interaction between the various branches of law enforcement: who has jurisdiction over which parts of the case(s); which personalities are cooperative or combative; who links to Mike, or Stacey, or Charley (Stacey’s father, Mike’s mentor), and how. The book may be a crime novel but there are lots of relationships involved.

Speaking of which: Readers finally learn why Mike and Stacey love each other and have never been able to tear apart despite the logic that says they should. This has not always been clear during the series, so it’s an important settling in the overarching story.

The settling is reflected in multiple references Mike makes in passing about his own perspective changes. For instance:

“My reputation had a bad habit of preceding me.”

“Discretion was a muscle I rarely exercised, and it was overdue for a workout.”


“I’d read something about how kids like to be scared in a particular way. They want to experience a sudden fright and then the reassurance of an adult swooping in to tell them everything’s OK. Surprise, fear, and then soothing support. As a child, I had never had someone provide that conditioning. I wondered if it explained why I didn’t properly feel the fear that I should. Bravery might be a maladaptation.”

Maybe so. But bravery is also a good adaptation for the types of trouble Mike gets into. In this novel, he has to fight for his life in the water—twice—and also dodge bullets and survive a brutal hand-to-hand combat, not to mention a plane crash. All while carrying on an investigation and maintaining the necessary focus on mission, tinged with cynicism on one hand and idealism on the other.

“You can never avenge any death in law enforcement; you simply can’t,” he says. “But if you do your job, you make punishment possible and show society that we are all accountable for our misdeeds. It’s a reminder the world needs daily, unfortunately.”

The most important question he asks in the story, and the big indicator that he has matured, is: “What did I owe the people who loved me? It shouldn’t have been a difficult decision; I was simply accustomed to acting quickly without considering the consequences. It was both my greatest fault and my greatest strength.”

It might also be what saves his life and lets the series continue.

Meanwhile, as this particular volume unfolds, Mike continues to note the details of the Maine woods environment—also a signature element of the series. “A barred owl howled like a monkey up the ridge behind me,” he observes. This might not mean much to urban readers, but folks familiar with northern New England will delight in the detail, because that particular species of owl really does sound like a group of jungle monkeys when they get going at certain times of year!

Just another item that builds the plausibility of the series.

In Dead Man’s Wake there are enough plausible suspects to keep readers guessing whodunit up to the climactic reveal. The combination of elements makes for a page-turner that’s satisfying in pace, depth, and intrigue—delivering the style consistency and character evolution that build fans and keep them coming back for more.