When it comes to crime thrillers, Paul Doiron’s latest novel, Stay Hidden, is as good as anything else hitting bookstores in 2018.
Returning is Mike Bowditch, the longtime Maine-based game warden who was recently promoted to warden investigator. Having gone through a lot in his private life in last year’s book, Mike isn’t exactly in the best place when readers catch up with him here. Then again, readers have seen him much worse off. . .
In reality, that’s all done on purpose by Mike’s creator, Doiron, the New York Times bestselling author who’s penned nine novels since his debut, The Poacher’s Son, came out in 2010.
Having read Doiron’s work for years, I’ve always personally thought that his first book was his best work, which is in no way a knock on the others. The Poacher’s Son is a special debut, on par with C.J. Box’s (whom Doiron has drawn many comparisons to) Open Season, and John Sandford’s Rules of Prey. That said, Stay Hidden is right up there. If it’s not enough to overtake Poacher’s Son for the top spot, then at the minimum, it sits right beside it. It’s that good.
Just ahead of pub day, Paul Doiron agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I was thrilled to toss out some questions I’ve always wanted to ask him. See the brief Q&A below, where I ask him about everything from why he promoted Bowditch to whom he’d like to see play Mike in a film or television show, and then order your copy of Stay Hidden, in stores everywhere July 3, 2018.
TRBS: I loved this book. I’ve been a fan of your stuff for a while now, but it felt like you really hit a new gear with Stay Hidden. How did you come up with the story idea, and how much research did you have to do before sitting down to write it?
Doiron: “As an author, you always hope the new book is better than the one before since you can’t go back and rewrite the old ones (maybe that’s for the best). In answer to your question, I have wanted to set a novel on one of Maine’s offshore islands for a long time now. I live on the coast and always have, and I have friends who are lobstermen. The problem has been: game wardens don’t have much to do on the remote sea islands — except for the handful of islands with deer living on them. When I made the decision to promote Mike Bowditch to warden investigator, I finally saw a way to tie two plot threads together. I could give Mike a hunting homicide case to solve but have the shooting take place in the last place you would ever imagine. As usual, I had to interview my contacts in the Maine Warden Service since it’s such a specialized kind of detective work. But because I know the islands so well, I actually had less research to do on the setting than usual.”
TRBS: In this book, Mike is now a warden investigator after receiving a much-deserved promotion. Why did you decide to go that route, and did you find it challenging at all to adapt to his new role while you wrote the story?
Doiron: “Secretly, I have always viewed my Mike Bowditch books as more of a saga than a series. Of course, I try to make each novel accessible to new readers, but I probably focus more on advancing the overall narrative of my protagonist’s life than many series authors do. In the first book, The Poacher’s Son, Mike Bowditch is such a mess — emotionally damaged, self-sabotaging — but over the course of the subsequent novels, he takes steps to become a better man. He suffers setbacks, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a heroic journey. After eight books, I wanted to give him a new challenge. The position of warden investigator is the Warden Service’s version of a plainclothes detective. Mike has been investigating deaths all along, but now he finally has an excuse.”
TRBS: With vivid descriptions and a cast full of interesting characters, your stuff feels like it’s written for the big screen. Might fans ever see a Mike Bowditch movie or television show and, if so, who would be your dream casting choice to play him?
Doiron: “I spend a lot of time outdoors, and one thing I learned from the old woodsmen I love and respect is to live through all of my senses. Mike Bowditch is a man alert to the world around him. Those vivid descriptions are a natural part of who he is as a human being. They wouldn’t necessarily be there if I were writing from another character’s point of view. In terms of television and movies, I can’t say much, but you’re not the first to see the cinematic possibilities in my books. I am hopeful we will see an adaptation announced soon. The funny thing is that the actors I might once have dreamed of playing Mike are now too old for the role. The Poacher’s Son especially wouldn’t work unless the actor was in his early twenties. My film agent once told me that authors are notoriously bad at ‘casting’ their characters and I have come to agree with him.”
TRBS: Your work is often compared to C.J. Box, William Kent Krueger, Craig Johnson, and a few other writers. Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last really great book that you read?
Doiron: “I am honored by those comparisons. James Lee Burke was another early inspiration for me. I have always wanted to bring Maine to life the way Burke does Louisiana in his Dave Robicheaux novels. On the other end of the spectrum, is the late P.D. James. She was one of the few writers whose new books I would start reading the day they were published. They were so literate and insightful into human nature. I have joked that Stay Hidden, with its fogbound island setting and accent cast of characters, is as close as I will ever come to writing a proper British mystery. But the last truly great suspense novel I read has to be The North Water by Ian McGuire. A psychopath going about his nasty work on a whaling ship with only the ship’s doctor suspecting him — what’s not to like?”
TRBS: Lastly, now that Stay Hidden is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you, and can you tell us anything about your next book?
Doiron: “As anyone who has read me for a while knows, I like to mix things up from book to book. The next one will be more action-packed. And it will include the return of two of the series’ most popular characters who have been offstage a while. I have a title I am excited about, but my publisher hasn’t officially signed off on it. As soon as I get the go ahead, you will be the first to know.”
A supposed hunting accident becomes a dangerously complicated murder investigation in Stay Hidden, the intricately-plotted new thriller from Paul Doiron featuring Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch,
A woman has been shot to death by a deer hunter on an island off the coast of Maine. To newly promoted Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch, the case seems open and shut. But as soon as he arrives on remote Maquoit Island he discovers mysteries piling up one on top of the other.
The hunter now claims he didn’t fire the fatal shot and the evidence proves he’s telling the truth. Bowditch begins to suspect the secretive community might be covering up the identity of whoever killed the woman, known as Ariel Evans. The controversial author was supposedly writing a book about the island’s notorious hermit. So why are there no notes in her rented cottage?
The biggest blow comes the next day when the weekly ferry arrives and off steps the dead woman herself. Ariel Evans is alive, well, and determined to solve her own “murder” even if it upsets Mike Bowditch’s investigation and makes them both targets of an elusive killer who will do anything to conceal his crimes,
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.