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by Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books, October 2013
325 pages
ISBN: 125002613X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Archer Mayor's fine series about Investigator Joe Gunther has gained another volume. The series' strength might be Vermont's strengths as well: a tendency to look at the world-that-is with the wry humor of realists with a heart, and to take and give no bunkum. The setup touches on recent events: Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, covering both privileged and pauper in mud. In Vermont, the hills stand clear, but the floodwaters gather to a head in the valleys. It is the day after a disaster when we find what the locals are really made of.

Joe Gunther, Vermont Bureau of Investigation, his brother Leo, volunteer firefighter, Beverly Hillstrom, Chief Medical Examiner, Investigators Sammie Martens and the father of her child, Willie Kunkle, a crippled war veteran who still suffers the effects of PTSD, confront the messes, both physical and moral, revealed in the floods. A coffin that contains no body, only rocks, has been uncovered in a graveyard. And, in another location, an elderly woman is missing when floodwaters reach the state insane asylum; the scramble is on to reach her before she dies of exposure or wanders out into traffic.

The coffin full of rocks should have contained the body of Herb Rozanski, a young man who may have met with an accident at the family sawmill. But if he did, where has he gone? Other family members who once existed are strangely absent, and the one sister who seems to still be around shies away from any details.

The missing state home resident's trail keeps crossing with the state's powerful Republican machine of years past. She appears, in fact, in a photograph owned by a Republican Senator who has been found dead in a very exclusive home for the elderly. The more Joe Gunther and his gang search for the missing insane woman, the more they uncover unsavory facts concerning relations between big business, big lobbyists, well-greased political skids, and the little ones who stand in the way of a flood without knowing it.

Cathy Downs, professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is a fan of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, December 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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