“Dead by Dawn,” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur)
As Mike Bowditch leaves a cluster of mobile homes known as “Pill Hill” and steers down a twisting mountain road in the dark, he is driving straight into an ambush.
He sees it too late, a line of metal spikes intended to tear his tires to shreds. He hears them burst as his truck topples over a ledge and crashes through the ice into the Androscoggin River.
So begins “Dead by Dawn,” the 12th novel in Paul Doiron’s unwaveringly superb series about a courageous, battle-tested Maine game warden.
Mike’s first thought as the cabin fills with water is not for himself but for Shadow, his fierce half-dog, half wolf companion locked in a metal cage in back. He manages to free the animal, but when he pulls himself from the truck, the swift current and drags him under the ice.
Just when it appears that he is done for, he surfaces in a small area of open water and hauls himself to land. But his ordeal has just begun. It is the dead of winter, the ground thick with snow. He is in the middle of nowhere with no matches to start a fire. He is soaked to his bones, and hypothermia is setting in.
When it looks like things couldn’t get worse, a bullet finds his leg. He is being hunted.
What follows are two compelling, alternating narratives. In a series of flashbacks, we learn the events that led to the ambush as Mike tries to uncover the truth behind a cold-case murder. In the other, he fights for his life in a wilderness survival story as compelling Jack London’s classic short story, “To Build a Fire.”
Doiron draws on both meticulous research and his own wilderness experiences in Maine to give the struggle an unmistakable feeling of authenticity. And as always in a Bowditch novel, the prose is as sharp as an arrow and so lyrical that it sometimes borders on poetry.