The disappearance of two Georgia women hiking the Appalachian Trail gives Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch a welcome reprieve from the persistent personal problems that keep intruding into his cases, or serving as their foundations (The Bone Orchard, 2014, etc.).
Well-prepared as they seemed for the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, Samantha “Baby Ruth” Boggs and Missy “Naomi Walks” Montgomery have been swallowed up by a stretch without food, drinking water, or reliable cellphone reception. Pulled away from a romantic weekend with wildlife biologist Stacey Stevens by an urgent call for volunteer searchers, Bowditch finds his physical limits tested when he’s teamed up with beekeeper Bob “Nonstop” Nissen, an ex-con who no longer needs meth to keep pushing himself day and night, and his emotional loyalties tugged every which way when Stacey herself joins him in the search. Starting with the last people to see Baby Ruth and Naomi Walks alive, the Warden Service, the state police, and the FBI combine in rare harmony, methodically narrowing down the area they must search. All this effort comes too late for Baby Ruth and Naomi Walks, who at length are found dead on Chairback Mountain, not far from where they were last seen. Along the way, Bowditch tangles with a pair of newlyweds honeymooning along the A.T.; the bouffant-haired Rev. Mott, the hikers’ camera-ready minister; the hydra-headed Dow family, who never met a neighbor they couldn’t bully into submission; and a spectral general-store clerk who tells him, “There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” They’re all worth your time, but most of them are only red herrings whose underdeveloped stories go nowhere, and the monster responsible for the deaths, and eventually for Stacey’s disappearance, seems to have been cast almost as an afterthought.
As scenically evocative as Bowditch’s first four cases but not nearly as dense, conclusive, or interesting.