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The Precipice (Mike Bowditch) by Paul Doiron
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250063694
Date: 16 June 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Two young Christian graduates of Georgia's Pentecost University, Samantha Boggs and Missy Montgomery, have disappeared while hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. The Place Last Seen (PLS) was established at a Chairback Mountain lean-to shelter near Monson, Maine. Game Warden Mike Bowditch and his girlfriend, Stacy Stephens, a biologist, have joined the massive search party. There are numerous ways to die in the forest. Are Samantha and Missy the victims of a hate crime committed by local rednecks? Did they fall prey to a serial killer who stalks hapless hikers on the AT? Could they have been savagely torn apart by rogue coyotes? Or are they merely the victims of an accident that occurred when they stepped too close to the precipice of a cliff? Mike and Stacey put their lives in danger on numerous occasions as they search for the truth.

Books by Paul Doiron:
Mike Bowditch Mysteries:
* Bad Little Falls
* Massacre Pond
* The Bone Orchard
* The Precipice
* Widowmaker

The Precipice is the most disturbing, most nerve-wracking of all of Paul Doiron's Mike Bowditch novels. It has been three days since I've read it and I still get nervous thinking about the plot. Having grown up in Blount County, Tennessee, at the foot of the Smoky Mountains National Park, I have gone hiking on numerous occasions with the Boy Scouts and Sunday school classes. Becoming lost in the woods has always been a genuine fear of mine. I never stray off the designated hiking trails. One could stumble across wild bears, boars, or wolves or someone's marijuana patch. (I've also seen a lot of horror movies about cannibalistic hillbilly mutants.) According to The Precipice, every year 500 people are reported missing in Maine. Within 48 hours, most are found. After that, the odds of them ever being found alive grow slimmer as time passes. In the Hundred Mile Wilderness, if the mosquitoes don't eat you alive, something else will.

As I strongly suspected, The Precipice was a fast-paced novel with numerous shocks and grisly discoveries. The body count was high enough to keep gore hounds, like myself, satisfied. The disappearance of Samantha and Missy is just one of several intertwining plots that are extremely fascinating. Whoever, or whatever, is responsible for their disappearance remains a well-guarded mystery until nearly the very end.

Unusual characters abound. You encounter all kinds of hikers on the AT that range from very nice to very weird. All of them have pseudonyms such as Incredible Hunk, McDonut and El Chupacabra. The reader receives a crash course on hiking the AT. For example, I didn't realize there were so many lodges, lean-tos, and shelters that hikers could sleep in. Paul Doiron describes an exciting and beautiful, but dangerous, world that makes me want to grab my boots and commence hiking.

The Precipice couldn't have been published at a more opportune time. Thanks to President Barack Obama, the Confederate flags are coming down and the rainbow flags are going up. This novel deals with the sensitive issue of homosexuality. Readers already know that Mike Bowditch's girlfriend, Stacey Stephens, is bisexual. There are characters who believe homosexuality is a sin. One of them is the gaudy, obnoxious Reverend Mott who represents the parents of the missing hikers. Paul Doiron is one of those extremely gifted writers who can blend timely, real-life news stories with a unique setting and interesting, realistic characters.

The Maine wilderness to a city boy like me is a foreign country. Furthermore, Mike Bowditch is an incredibly likeable protagonist whom I truly admire. He has his flaws, but don't we all? He's an agnostic and I'm a devout Christian. However, I can understand when he says, "My prayers rarely come true." In a world full of tragedy, it can be difficult to keep one's faith. I have faith that Paul Doiron's next Mike Bowditch novel will be another bestseller.

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