Mike Bowditch, textbook
maverick cop (or game warden), has started work as a fishing guide. His
should-be idyllic life is compromised when he hears the news that a friend and
veteran has been shot, by none other than his old mentor, Kathy Frost. Soon,
Kathy finds herself under threat. But who is hiding behind the sniper rifle?
Bowditch, heart left in the force, brings himself out of retirement to find
story starts with a bang. An emergency dispatcher transcript throws us straight
into the action. Who is this woman on the phone? What is her son going to do?
The ensuing chapters keep up that feeling of tension. The story proper starts
with a bit of history but rather than feeling frustrating, the reader is pulled
inexorably towards the fateful moment we know is coming. Still, we hope that
something different might happen, that the characters might be aware of this
recount, and be able to change their own histories.
the story slows down. The audience follows Bowditch through his more
comfortable yet ultimately less fulfilling new role as fishing guide happily,
feeling the tension at Doiron is subtly building again. This is one of the
greatest strengths of the book. Its pace varies so much throughout, slowing
down when we want it to speed up, speeding up when we want it to slow down; all
done so cleverly that the audience is pleasantly frustrated, teased into
wanting to know more, or anxious for what might happen next.
a new reader can be left a little dazed by Bowditch’s previous life
experiences. He seems to have suffered trauma after trauma but, to someone who
has not met these deceased or troubled characters before, it can feel that the
emotional toll they have had is short-changed. Fortunately, as the story goes
on, the first-timer begins to see these issues affect Bowditch – the hospital
he has to visit, the way people compare him to his father – and we learn to
understand him a little more.
tricky thing. Doiron is not a sexist. However, it does feel as though Bowditch
places women in a rather separate category to the men. Men, ultimately, are the
ones getting things done in this book. A strong female warden is constantly
questioned by our narrator. Is she ‘insecure about her gender’? He places his
own expectations about women upon her: ‘Her facial features weren’t
unattractive. It was her attitude that made her appear so mean and
unapproachable.’ When she finally smiles, we are told she ‘actually had very
pretty teeth’ as though this is in any way relevant except to make her fit into
a more clearly defined feminine role. Luckily, we find out that this warden has
a crush on Mike. And so the world makes sense to him again. Again, I don’t
think any of these issues come from Doiron but I did find certain parts
frustrating, pushing me away from forming a connection with Mike.
The Bone Orchard is a slow-burning
tale of redemption and rediscovery which invites the audience to amble with
Bowditch through the woods. Every now and again, we step on a twig which makes
a loud crack and we all pause, fearful,
waiting for something to happen. These moments are all the more powerful for
the steady pace we take the rest of the way.