What happens when game warden Mike Bowditch comes in contact with feral swine, and has to go on the lookout for pigs that are dangerous to humans and the environment? Living with his girlfriend biologist Stacy, getting a call that there are black bear sized pigs afoot, he and Stacy go after them hoping to take them out before anyone or anything gets hurt. Finding the pigs was the first thing they discovered. Making sure they were dead and searching the area for any more pigs and remnants that needed to be taken back, the shock of what they see next will send them on a difficult hunt for a killer. An infant girl wrapped in a pink tee shirt and buried in a grave that is shallow is found a hundred yards from the Knife Creek trailhead. But what is really horrific and more startling is that the child had been dumped there hoping that the pigs would devour the human child and leave or hide any evidence of the crime. Imagine the reaction of both Mike and Stacy at this murder scene. But, the state police that take over the case thwarts wanting to participate in the investigation. However, knowing Bowditch he will not give up until he gets the answers he wants no matter what he has to do even bending or breaking the rules. Learning the name of the woman who the baby belonged to from DNA testing he realized that the woman he saw at one of the Nason’s rented houses was Casey Donaldson, someone believed to be dead for four years. But, the police don’t want to believe him and although he proved it the detective on the original case is suspicious and is not happy that Mike is investigating it. But, why? Thinking Casey was dead going on a group rafting trip and the circumstances of her disappearance and death lead to many people telling many stories.
Hoping to get a promotion to investigator and then learning that Stacy might be in trouble with her bosses, leads the reader to believe that things between them are not going well at all. Added in a man named Dakota Rowe is at the helm for this possible murder of Casey or maybe he’s holding her. The retired state trooper, detective just wants to close the case but cannot believe that it’s possible that Casey is alive. But, DNA does not lie. Next we get to learn more about a rural slumlord who rented to two strange mysterious red wigged women and Mike watched their house explode the next day. Having a barbeque for the fourth of July was supposed to bring everyone together but when Stacy’s father Charlie and Mike decide to explore even more what they find might send them down a more dangerous path with a killer on the loose.
With the barbeque in full swing Mike has to attend a special meeting with the heads of the police forces, the troopers, including the detective that was in charge of the case four years ago who at the end of the meeting is anything but furious with Mike. Things get ugly and now that they know Casey is alive the focus is on where she might be, who kidnapped her and then another snag. The man who owns the variety store Mr. Fales learns that his wife was the last person to see Becky Cobb and a young girl that might have been Casey alive. But, someone does not want them to be identified and when Dani Tate the trooper, gets a call and finds Connie Fales was dead, things really spiral out of control as the author creates more twists, surprises and unexpected outcomes. While he and Dani are at the meeting and missing the barbeque, Stacy informs him later on that she was fired from her job and that he parents decided to leave a day early. Her father angry with her for getting fired and she at him for always more concerned about Mike than her. Are they going to separate?
Mike is smart and after Dani finds Connie Fales dead Mike and Dani realize it was the Cobbs that killer her. But, there are many more shocking surprises as Stacy is fired and seems to not want to remain in Maine will she leave Mike behind? Mike has been promoted and is now an investigator will he take the job?
Ellen Pomerleau is the detective that wants him involved in the case and Finch her partner is anything but glad that Mike is there. Steve Nason who has a disability disappeared and his brother and mother came in for an interview but did his brother have more to do with what happened to Casey and the burning down of the house rented to the Cobbs. Steve Nason was thought to have taken flight and detective Menario the man who was in charge of the case went after Daktoa Rowe and was shot. Dakota got away but his family is rich and whether Menario is right or wrong the money talks and he just might walk. A strange phone call comes to Mike claiming that there is a feral pig on the loose and the person who called says her name is Martha but in reality it was someone else. Meeting Martha but later finding himself kidnapped and pepper sprayed and taken hostage, Mike learns the person who kidnapped Casey and several other women plus who was plying her with heroine to keep her quiet as she was being raped. Things take an ugly turn and deceptions come to light but where is the real Martha Tarbox and who was pretending to be her? Things are quite scary as Mike is brutally hurt, Becky Cobb is totally out of her mind and the person behind all of the kidnappings and taking both Casey and Mike is someone who just won’t suspect. From resentment, to doubt, to the harsh realization by the police, troopers and fire department that Mike Bowditch has the skill, intuitiveness and the where with all to become a warden investigator. But, what does this job have in store for him? Tom Donaldson, is Casey’s stepfather that demanded to see Mike but why? Who is John Blood? Why would he let campers dumb their garbage on his land? A search map would tell it all as Charlie Stevens, Stacy’s father and Mike decide to follow the map and find themselves meeting some homeless people camping near the cellar hole of a hunting cabin. Why were they there and who gave them permission to be there? Kathy is old boss who retired from the Warden Service was included in this investigation since she was part of it at the start when Casey disappeared. Dani Tate is a strong character and just might make it higher than trooper is the author decides to bring her back as she is the one that finds Connie Fales and handles it like a pro. Feral pigs are dangerous and so are many of the people we meet within this novel who are just as deadly.
Author Paul Doiron creates a final scene that will have readers holding their breath as Mike is hurt, his ability to breathe difficult, no way to get loose and if she does will he be able to escape. An ending that is quite revealing as someone comes to his rescue, someone might be leaving his life, as Mike has a concussion, other injuries as Casey speaks out about her ordeal, her stepfather at her side and Mike and Stacy come to a crossroads and he is now a warden investigator, she is fired from her job and decisions have to be made, Dani realizes that she might never be promoted to a higher position as a female trooper, and Mike realizes that something has changed? What is in store for him as an investigator? What about his relationship with Stacy? Some endings are beginnings for which only the author will know as we revisit Knife Creek Trail once more.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine