Old Friends: Chat, by Archer Mayor

February 16, 2008 at 11:09 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

I am deeply grateful for the high quality long-running series that I know I can turn to with confidence. I love being able to pick up a book knowing that it will not disappoint me. Of course, no matter how reliable an author may normally be, some series entries will inevitably be less compelling than others. But I invariably enjoy revisiting characters who are like old friends in familiar surroundings.

chat.jpg And so it was great to find myself once again hanging out with Joe Gunther, the ever-cranky and overly blunt Willy Kunkle, Beverly Hillstrom M.E., Sammy Martens et. al. This outing involves Joe’s family, namely his mother and his brother Leo, both of whom nearly die in a car wreck. At the same time, Gunther and company find themselves investigating internet predators. It is a peculiar case because of the possibility that the predators themselves might actually be the prey. The prey of whom, though? That’s what Joe Gunther and his team from the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, together with other law enforcement groups, must race against the clock to find out.

Meanwhile, while all this is going on, Joe finds himself falling in love. He has just severed a relationship of very long standing with Gail Zigman, a political activist with designs on the governorship of the Green Mountain State. Now Lyn Silva, a woman he had met on a previous case and been instantly attracted to, has, with admirable (and, I suspect, not entirely coincidental) timing, come back into his life. Joe is such a terrific, decent, honorable person, with such a wealth of love and affection to bestow – well, I confess, as I was reading the scenes with Lyn, I was mentally cheering: “Go, Joe, go!”

One of the chief pleasures of this series can be found in Archer Mayor’s observations on Vermont and his fellow Vermonters. For instance, as Joe drives through the Green Mountains, he reflects that “…his mother and the snow-clad, sun-bleached mountains he was passing by were not dissimilar. Both were old, stalwart bastions of tradition and place, around which Joe had found it wise to base his values…he had come to recognize the wisdom–at least for him–of admitting his roots and honoring their more admirable customs, of which his mother represented the best.” I’ve had a hankering to travel to Vermont – especially Brattleboro, where Joe Gunther and his unit are based – ever since I began reading these novels some twenty years ago.

I have some reservations about certain incidents that occur near the end of Chat. In order to avoid stumbling into “spoiler” territory, I’ll just say that the incidents referred to above were, IMHO, over-the-top melodrama that could easily have been dispensed with. That said, I enjoyed everything else about the novel. I cannot praise this author highly enough for the skill and ease with which he navigates the sometimes thorny terrain of the police procedural.

mayorarcher-150.jpg open_season.jpg Recently, Archer Mayor made publishing news by bringing back into print, at his own expense, the first twelve Joe Gunther novels. You can purchase these titles directly from ArcherMayor.com


  1. An occasion for celebrating books, with a poignant aftermath « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Archer Mayor (Vermont) […]

  2. The Year in Mystery: Group One, Part Two « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Chat by Archer Mayor. I love Mayor’s straight-ahead, unadorned prose style and his exceptionally appealing protagonist, Joe Gunther. This series also features a vividly rendered ensemble cast of law enforcement officers. […]

  3. Lobsters too short to be legal - The Catch, by Archer Mayor « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Highway? Never heard of it myself, but I’d love to go there now. This series benefits greatly from its New England setting; as you can see from the foregoing, Mayor makes the […]

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