First Sentence: I passed the coroner's meat wagon on the way up the hill to the prison.
Maine Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch receives a request from inmate Billy Cronk, a former friend he helped imprison for murder. Billy wants him to investigate a new female prison guard who then suffers a brutal attack. Another call comes from a mountain community where wolf-hybrid Shadow has been shot by a crossbow and is barely clinging to life. The two investigations endanger Mike's life, as well as his loved ones.
Doiron has a wonderful voice—"It was one of those New England hamlets with a full graveyard and an empty schoolhouse. Half a mile from my place, a crumbling old farm had an actual family plot in its front years. No wonder the dump had scared off potential buyers for the past decade."
One thing which would have helped would be for the author to have explained more about the role of the Maine Warden Investigator, but that could be due to this being the 10th book in the series. For those interested, there is a good explanation. That didn't necessarily detract from the plot, but knowing the role provides a bit of clarity.
The change of scene from the prison to the situation with the wolf is very effective. One almost has a sensory reaction to it. That takes skill, and Doiron has it.
What is nice is that this is not the Maine of tourists. This is the Maine of those who live inland, in the parts of the state tourists don't see where life, and the people, can be hard. It's survival country of hunting, fishing, and now, drugs.
Doiron characters are strong and interesting, particularly Mike's girlfriend Maine State Trooper Danielle "Dani" Tate, and Alcohol Mary. He also has a wonderful way of making one truly care about Shadow, the hybrid wolf, and making one feel Mike's emotions.
While the plot is exciting, full of twists and danger, it truly is the author's style which keeps one engaged. Doiron's humor—"Across the room, I could see her children, the four platinum-blond Cronklets, ages five to ten… Someone had tuned the TV station to a financial news network, and the five backwoods ragamuffins were watching it with the intensity of day traders waiting for the next bit earnings report to drop."—is subtle, but it works. He has an excellent ear for dialogue—"I am required to ask this, Mrs. Gowdie. …I need to know if you own a crossbow." "Who do you think I am, Maid Fucking Marian?"--, as well as a sense of insight—"When my own heart started to break, I lifted my face to the sky, letting the flakes melt as they landed on warm skin, admitted my own arrogance and ignorance, and surrendered to the mysteries of a universe I knew I would never comprehend."
"Almost Midnight" has very good characters and well-done suspense. Wonderful dialogue, a great turn of phrase, and a nice touch of emotion may make one decide to read the series from the first book, as well as future books to come.
ALMOST MIDNIGHT (WardenInvest-Mike Bowditch-Maine-Contemp) - VG
Doiron, Paul – 10th in seriesMinotaur Books – July 2019