“His Brattleboro policeman is human and his landscapes are brilliant.” – Red Herring by Archer Mayor

November 19, 2010 at 3:29 am (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

Red Herring opens with the death of Doreen Ferenc,  a seemingly blameless, ordinary woman. Age fifty-four and living alone, she had been getting ready for bed when the bell rang and she opened the door to her killer.

Doreen’s brutal murder is bad enough. But it is only the beginning…

That crime, and those that follow, are disturbing in the extreme. Even so, I experienced great pleasure in being back in the company of agent Joe Gunther and his team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. And yes, that included Willy Kunkel. Pleasure in the company of the irascible, perverse, and supremely rude Kunkel? All things are possible; certainly Sammie Martens, his  fellow officer and live-in girlfriend, has found in Willy some redeeming qualities. Joe himself has fought for Willy’s inclusion in the force, despite the latter’s difficult personality and physical disability. Willy has a withered arm, due to a gunshot wound that never healed  correctly.  This in no way hampers his dexterity with a firearm, however.

The murder of Doreen Ferenc is followed by yet more killings. Again, the victims are seemingly innocent individuals, going about the daily business of their lives. Joe and his fellow investigators are baffled. Is there a serial killer abroad, shattering the pastoral serenity of Vermont? Or are these crimes connected for a very different reason?

Joe has his hands full coordinating this complex investigation. In addition, the state’s political scene is heating up. with Joe’s former girlfriend Gail Zigman running for governor.  This is an occasional distraction, with Joe’s current love interest, Lyn Silva, distracting him even further.

As with all the titles in this terrific series, an ardor for the beauty of the Green Mountain State permeates Red Herring:

From his point on the crest of the hill, Joe could see southward down several miles of gently winding Connecticut River.Near Ascutney Mountain, the Connecticut Valley opened up to offer some of the best that this region had to offer photogenically – rolling farms, silvery ponds, the occasional proud church spire, gleaming white. He’d always thought that if this wasn’t balm for the soul in all of us, the species was indeed in dire shape.

On his site Landscapes of Crime, Dartmouth Professor G. J. Demko has this to say about the Joe Gunther series: ‘Bucolic and lovely Vermont has little crime but a remarkably talented mystery writer in Archer Mayor. His Brattleboro policeman is human and his landscapes are brilliant.’

Mayor’s site offers additional video segments, plus other interesting features.

1 Comment

  1. kathy d. said,

    Not apropos of this post, but wanted to let you know–since you informed me about Kjell Eriksson’s good books, but some good news here.

    I had posted at Barbara Fister’s blog, “Scandinavian Crime Fiction,” asking if she knew why no more of Eriksson’s fiction would be translated and published in the U.S. She checked with his translator and found out that more of his books will be forthcoming in English and available here.

    I can’t wait.

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