Mike Bowditch seems finally to be passing out of the shadow of his father’s infamy in “Widowmaker,” the latest installment in Paul Doiron’s mystery series starring the often impetuous Maine game warden. This is the seventh book in the series, and it comes full circle, tying back to Doiron’s first novel, “The Poacher’s Son,” that centered on Bowditch’s father, “a legendary poacher turned cop-killer and fugitive.”

Early in “Widowmaker,” Bowditch summarily observes that he has struggled for years “to separate myself from the man and his crimes, successfully, for the most part. In my mind, at least, I had buried Jack Bowditch once and for all.”

Not so fast, Mike.

Bowditch has, it is true, matured. He’s no longer quite so defiant with authority figures, nor as petulant and impulsive with a chip on his shoulder. But the effects of being his father’s son are not entirely “buried” – not yet.

“Widowmaker” opens late on a winter night with Bowditch confronting a woman who is parked outside his house near Sebago Lake. The attractive, middle-aged woman talks her way into his house, then reveals that she needs his help to find her missing son. Bowditch is resistant, increasingly so when she shares the disturbing news that her son is actually his half-brother. Bowditch is stunned, and incredulous, though it isn’t beyond belief that his womanizing father could have left other offspring in his wake. Bowditch asks her to leave. She backs her claim before she goes by handing him his father’s military dog tags.

Bowditch subsequently gets called to check a nervous resident’s claim that a wolf walked through her yard stalking a deer. Bowditch disbelieves her claim, as well, but on greater merit, knowing that there are no known wolves living in Maine. Checking out reports that the woman’s neighbor has a big dog, he goes to investigate, sees the wolf-like dog – and nearly gets killed by its owner, a drug addled waif. She’s arrested, the illegal wolf dog is confiscated, and Bowditch is commanded to take several days off so his wounds can heal.

Stacey Stevens, Bowditch’s girlfriend, is physically absent from the story. A state game biologist, she has flown north with a team of colleagues to investigate a moose die-off. With Stacey gone and idle time on his hands, Bowditch can’t help but let his curiosity turn to the claim that Adam Langstrom is his supposed half-brother.

Mystery series crafted around a single protagonist, if done well – as Doiron’s is – are built more like an extended serial saga than a set of individual, standalone stories. Each book is somewhat akin to a long chapter in the complex, unfolding life of the main character. Doiron is exceptional at the craft of linking one book to the next. He is comparable in this to C.J. Box, who writes the stellar Joe Pickett mystery series, which also stars a game warden, this one in Wyoming.

Though Bowditch is impatient, Doiron is clearly not. It took three books for Bowditch to move from being smitten by Stacey Stevens to her becoming his girlfriend, though they are not yet living together in “Widowmaker.” When viewed as a “long chapter” in the Bowditch saga, however, “Widowmaker” is not as tight as other books in the series.

The premise of the story – an unknown half brother who resurrects Bowditch’s tortured love-hate relationship with his father – is compelling on the face of things, but it isn’t fully realized in the plotting. The book also would have benefited from stronger engagements from the cast of central supporting characters in the series.

There is no shortage of exceptional books in the Bowditch series, including “Massacre Pond” and “The Precipice.” “The Poacher’s Son” showcased real literary prowess and was an Edgar Award Finalist. “Widowmaker” does deliver a critical reveal in the series, in Bowditch’s realization that others in the warden service and in law enforcement now see him more in his own right as a tenacious and talented game warden, outside and beyond his father’s reputation. The book also excels at laying the groundwork for stories to come.

Bowditch and Stacey seem to reach solid ground that offers rich storytelling potential. The hybrid wolf-dog seems destined for a return, potentially a starring role. And Bowditch – more seasoned, more temperate, more respected – seems on the verge of a major promotion that could place him in a new realm of authority.

Doiron is skilled at balancing action – the hallmark of mystery series – with rich character development. From the beginning, Bowditch is someone readers come to care about. He has his foibles, but they serve chiefly to make him more intriguing and appealing. In this regard, “Widowmaker” marks a clear turn in Mike Bowditch’s increasingly nuanced character.

Frank O Smith’s novel, “Dream Singer,” was named a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction in 2014 by “Shelf Unbound,” an international review magazine. Smith can be reached via his website: