Paul Doiron famously brought the Mike Bowditch series to life, which follows a game warden who hunts criminals and missing people in the wild landscape of Maine. The books were all published in chronological order with only a few exceptions, so the best reading order is fairly straightforward.
Doiron is an award-winning, internationally adored author, who has produced some fantastic, gripping crime mysteries over the years. He has been nominated for some of the most prestigious awards in the literary sphere such as the Edgar Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award.
Doiron’s books have been translated into 11 different languages and he remains a prominent figure in Maine, as the editor of Down East Magazine. They maintain elements of the outdoors and follow a brilliantly-constructed, flawed character that makes for excellent, refreshing reading contrasting to many of the fully developed, intelligent detectives found in many crime fiction novels.
There are 19 books currently in the Mike Bowditch series, including a selection of short stories that accompany his main novels. However, another novella is expected this year, bringing the total up to 20. Each story follows a different mystery so reading the series in order isn’t essential but the development of Doiron’s main character and his private life makes more sense if read in chronological order.
Without further ado, here is the Mick Bowditch series in order:
All Paul Doiron Books in the Best Reading Order
The Poacher’s Son (2011)
The Poacher’s Son is the brilliant debut of the series and it starts the series off with a bang! Introducing Mike Bowditch, a games warden who patrols in Maine.
He returns home one night to a disturbing message from his father and the next morning is contacted by the police, who inform him that his father is the primary suspect in a murder case. This intriguing story delves into Mike’s past relationship with his father and his private life, as he risks everything for duty and responsibility.
Mike is called out to a coastal road one spring evening after receiving a call from a woman claiming to have hit a deer. Upon arrival, Mike finds blood on the road but nothing else – no deer, no woman. After some investigating, Mike draws parallels between this crime scene and another from years ago.
Trespasser makes fascinating links between a seemingly mundane scene and a disappearance that led to the framing of an innocent suspect.
Bad Little Falls (2012)
Mike Bowditch has been transferred to a secluded spot near the Canadian border. On one blistering cold night, Mike is called to a remote cabin where a couple has been approached by a man claiming to have lost his friend in the blizzard.
Bad Little Falls follows the gradual development of this case as it transforms from a rescue mission to a murder mystery.
Massacre Pond (2013)
Seven moose are discovered butchered on the land of Elizabeth Morse, an activist hoping to develop a new national park area.
Massacre Pond leads Mike down a spiral which ends up in him chasing a dangerous murderer. But the case has implications, it’s risky and controversial, which causes Mike to lose many of the people close to him.
The Bone Orchard (2014)
The Bone Orchard begins with Mike taking some time off following a family disaster. But his break doesn’t last long.
After a string of complex events, his mentor, Kathy, finds herself under scrutiny following the death of a veteran. She comes under government investigation and Mike must come to her rescue but in order to do so, he must dive deep into her past.
The Precipice (2015)
Mike is sent on a rescue mission after two women go missing during a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Two bodies are soon found but are they the corpses of these two women?
The Precipice follows as Mike’s personal life is revealed and integrates his new girlfriend, whose role becomes immediately important. But when she too disappears, Mike fears that a murderer may be on the loose.
Widowmaker begins as a strange, troubled woman appears outside Mike’s house. She claims that her son, Adam, is an innocent, wrongfully convicted sex offender who has just disappeared from a working camp.
But her revelation also has some personal implications for Mike. The woman claims that Adam is Mike’s half-brother, the son of his dead and problematic father.
Knife Creek (2017)
After being challenged with a task in the countryside, Mike finds a baby’s corpse buried just below the surface of the ground. DNA evidence suggests that the baby belonged to a woman who had died over four years ago.
In Knife Creek, Mike decides to reopen the case surrounding this woman’s death. He must uncover secrets, discover new enemies, and risk his career to find the answers.
Stay Hidden (2018)
On an island just off Maine, a woman is shot dead by a deer hunter. Mike arrives expecting to find a closed case but other mysteries are immediately apparent. The deer hunter is adamant that he didn’t shoot the woman and has an alibi. Evidence suggests that the community is hiding something and protecting the identity of whoever’s responsible.
The real mystery begins when the dead woman strolls off a ferry and tries to help solve her own ‘murder’. Stay Hidden is a fantastic, gripping, and twisted story that takes Mike on a completely new challenge.
Almost Midnight (2019)
Mike unexpectedly hears from an old friend and criminal he had to imprison. Billy wants Mike’s help to investigate a mysterious female prison guard with a secret past. But when the prison guard is attacked, Mike realizes that someone may be out to frame Billy and his family might be in danger.
Almost Midnight follows as Mike tries to uncover this investigation and gets involved in another mystery concerning a wolf-hybrid and his hunter. But are these two linked? This is a real page-turner and challenges Mike with new, emotional, and dutiful challenges.
One Last Lie (2020)
When Charley Stevens, one of Mike’s closest and oldest friends, goes missing, Mike has a series of justifications including the emergence of an antique badge that’s linked to an unsolved mystery from Charley’s past.
One Last Lie delves into the past, an investigation 15 years ago that involved a missing warden that was, at last, presumed dead. Mike is determined to find Charley before anything like that happens to him. As he journeys across the state to find him, Mike begins to realize that wardens in different areas have secrets to keep and even the help of Charley’s daughter can’t guarantee a discovery.
Dead by Dawn (2021)
Dead by Dawn is an Edgar Award nominee and begins as Mike is attacked and drives his car into a frozen river, leaving him trapped under ice and stranded with no help. After managing to survive this horrendous ordeal, Mike thinks he’s been the victim of a mysterious trap and thinks the culprit is still out there.
Before this happened, Mike had some trouble at work and believes the daughter of a victim may have a part to play. When accusations begin flying around, Mike is sent on a journey to discover who’s out there to get him and why they want him dead.
Hatchet Island (2022)
Mike and his girlfriend Stacey are on a kayaking trip when they come across a tense situation on the shores of a nearby island. Biologists feel under attack and are being followed by a boatman who appears only at night.
During the night, Mike and Stacey wake up to a gunshot sound and when they pay a visit to the biologists, two of them have been shot dead and one has disappeared. Mike must find the missing biologist and becomes more and more suspicious of the island locals. Adamant that someone is hiding something, Mike must try to stop a murderer in their tracks, without any clues or helpful leads. Hatchet Island is a suspenseful read with so many unpredictable twists.
Dead Man’s Wake (Expected June 2023)
While celebrating their engagement, Mike and Stacey witness a hit-and-run involving speedboats. Eager to investigate they drop everything and go to the scene only to find the gruesome remains of the event – a severed arm.
The following day, divers pull out two naked bodies – a man and a married woman who were involved in an affair. Mike begins investigating the case and starts with the woman’s potentially jealous and violent husband, the only obvious person with a motive.
After speaking with witnesses, Mike starts to get a picture of what really happened, but then these stories begin adapting and Mike must decipher the truth himself. But as he edges closer and closer to answers, his own life and the life of his new fiancé become in the direct firing line of one of the most dangerous enemies he’s ever dealt with. Dead Man’s Wake is a dramatic and tense thriller that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.
Novellas in the Mike Bowditch Series
These short stories are not necessary but often add some interesting background/additional detail.
The Bear Trap (2014)
The Bear Trap is located between Massacre Pond and The Bone Orchard and follows Mike Bowditch’s early patrols.
Rabid is located between Knife Creek and Stay Hidden and concentrates on Mike’s friend who has been attacked by a rabid bat. This one is different from Doiron’s typical storylines but it’s a great read.
Backtrack is located between Stay Hidden and Almost Midnight and takes us back in time, following the youth of Charley Stevens, one of Mike’s close friends.
The Imposter (2020)
The Imposter is located between Almost Midnight and One Last Lie and centers around an intriguing investigation in which a body is found with a driving license displaying the name ‘Mike Bowditch’.
The Caretaker (2021)
The Caretaker is located between One Last Lie and Dead by Dawn and follows Mike on an unusual investigation with Charley Stevens.
Skin and Bones (2022)
Skin and Bones is a novella located after Hatchet Island and follows Mike and Charley as current events force them to dive back into memories and past investigations.
Snakebit (Expected April 2023)
Snakebit is the final novella in this series and is located after Skin and Bones but before the upcoming novel Dead Man’s Wake.
A teenager is emitted to hospital with a rattlesnake bite but these creatures do not exist in Maine.
Although Paul Doiron has written a plethora of books, hopefully, this article will help you navigate his series with more ease. The Mike Bowditch series is gripping, complex, and filled with unpredictable twists. It’s a series you’re not going to want to miss, so make sure you follow the best reading order to maximize understanding and enjoyment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to read Paul Doiron’s books in order?
It’s not compulsory because many of his books follow their own storyline. However, in order to fully understand the character and get as much out of the series as possible, we recommend following the chronological order highlighted above.
Nevada Barr and C.J. Box are recommended as follow-ups because their genres and writing styles are very similar to that of Doiron’s.
How do you pronounce Doiron?
Doiron should be pronounced like DWAHR-uhn, similar to Poirot.
Is the Mike Bowditch series psychologically focused?
The crime mysteries remain at the center of these novels but there is a focus on the protagonist’s psychological development, including how events and people affect him mentally.
How does Paul Doiron know so much about Maine and the outdoors?
He worked as a registered Maine guide and is able to guide trips. He works with game wardens, allowing him to fully understand the role and its implications for inspiration for his protagonist.