Dyed in the Green by George Mercer – Ben Matthews arrives at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia as the new Assistant Chief Park Warden. The park is located in the northern part of the island and spans the island.
Matthews is joining his girlfriend, Kate Jones, a seasonal warden at the park. Life is a little more complicated with Matthews being the supervisor of Jones.
The park is in the midst of Acadian Nova Scotia. French is spoken as much as English. The Acadians see themselves as distinct from the English population.
Matthews arrives with a clear purpose. He is committed to the ideal of protecting the park from poachers. In recent years park wardens have not vigorously sought out poachers. Some local residents have been making a habit of poaching salmon and deer.
In particular, John Donald Moores views the park as a part of his regular hunting grounds. While he earns an income from commercial fishing he is a passionate hunter and fisher of salmon.
Moores is a man who believes rules and laws were meant for other people. At times contemptuous of the wardens he also views poaching as a game. There is a thrill in outwitting the wardens.
As is the way of governments throughout the world not all rules make sense. All hunting is prohibited in the park but non-commercial fishing for salmon is allowed.
Catching poachers means long lonely hours for the wardens. They will have all night patrols and stakeouts. On cold fall nights they bring sleeping bags to get some warmth.
Tensions can run high if the wardens confront a poacher. Still when murder occurs it is startling.
American readers may be surprised to know the wardens of 20 years ago and earlier did not carry firearms as they patrolled the parks. They confronted poachers, often armed, without guns themselves. Some carried guns, contrary to regulation, but many were unarmed.
Matthews fits well with the other wardens and park personnel. His staff sees him spending as much or more time as themselves on night duty.
I enjoyed learning about the life of park wardens some years ago, Parks Canada as explained by Mercer, re-organized in 2008 and there are no longer wardens. At the same time I do not think I will read another in the series.
It is an earnest book. Mercer clearly loves Canada’s national parks and the park wardens with whom he worked for over 30 years. I am sure, as with other professions, that almost all of them are dedicated to their work. At the same time I am sure that they have never thought of themselves as saints. The only flaw I could detect in Matthews is that he is a workaholic, overly dedicated, to being a warden. The other wardens except for Joe, on the verge of retirement, are equally without blemish. Joe’s flaw is a more relaxed approach to being a warden that is reflective of his age and impending retirement.
I certainly do not need sleuths to be dysfunctional individuals but they need to be real people.