The Poacher’s Son: A worthy opponent!

Wow.  Great new entry into the Literary Lunchbox reviewing/ranking for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel.

I spent quite a few hours with The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron, finding it to be an enjoyable mystery with a credible and engaging premise:  grown-up son of a hard-drinking rural scofflaw (the poacher in question) becomes a game warden as a rejection of all his father stands for.  Basically a wilderness cop, Mike Bowditch hasn’t heard from his father in years when he gets an unexpected phone call.  The next thing you know, Mike’s dad is a fugitive from a double murder charge, and Mike knows in his heart that it can’t be true.   The reader buys in completely to Mike’s perspective and watches with a heavy heart as Mike sacrifices his friendships, his lovelife, and even his career in order to help his dad.

That’s why it’s such a rush when everything clicks into place in the last few chapters of the book.  All is not what it seems, and as the danger ratchets up and the bodies pile up, it becomes apparent that Mike may just have sacrificed all – for nothing.

Pros for The Poacher’s Son:  believable characters, page-turning suspense, killer ending.  Cons:  A couple of the characters are a little thin.

The Poacher’s Son is pretty clearly superior to Rogue Island and The Serialist.  So the question comes down to Galveston or The Poacher’s Son for the top spot so far.  The books have similarities – both are character-driven.  Both turn on new understandings of long-time relationships.  Ultimately, The Poacher’s Son is narrower in scope than Galveston, so it doesn’t quite edge out the front-runner.  Here’s the line up so far:

  1. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
  2. The Poacher’s Sonby Paul Doiron.
  3. The Serialist by David Gordon
  4. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Still to come:  Only Snow Angels.  Stay tuned.

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