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by Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books, October 2012
306 pages
ISBN: 031268195X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Let us now praise not-famous-enough men. Archer Mayor has been writing an excellent police procedural series since 1988, and hasn't felt compelled to abandon his series lead, Joe Gunther, or his wonderfully-realized Vermont setting in order to stake a claim in predictable-bestseller territory. Some critics might call his books "regional," a category that condemned many nineteenth century women's novels to critical obscurity. But any well-read fan of the genre knows this is a gem of a series.

Joe Gunther has been a cop for a long time, and his age makes him both wise and somewhat weary of the unending stupidity of human beings and of the personal price he has paid over the course of his career in law enforcement. Still, when a millionaire's house is burglarized and set on fire in an upscale Vermont housing development, he's able to see beyond the state's borders and recognize connections to crimes in Boston and in Northampton, a college town that combines wealth, college credentials, and an independent streak to make it "paradise city." Paradise also comes to the mind of a young Chinese woman who catches a glimpse of it from the back of a truck that is carrying her to yet another anonymous work site. She had paid dearly to be smuggled into the country and is trapped by a loan she will never be allowed to pay off. Her fate, Joe's burglary, and an assault on an elderly woman in Boston's Beacon Hill are all linked, with the evidence chain that binds them a rash of unusual thefts of hard-to-fence jewelry.

This story has a lot of characters whose stories only come together gradually, but Mayor has the skill to make them all memorable, compelling, and realistic. It also features his usual cast of characters, which includes the irascible and self-destructive Willy Kunkle, who is having trouble adjusting to fatherhood and married life with his colleague Sammie, unsure what to do with this strange and destabilizing emotion, happiness.

Those new to the series will enjoy this book, and owe it to themselves to read more in the series. Those who have followed the series for years will be delighted to remind themselves just how reliably good it is.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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