Three Can Keep a Secret – but what a secret!

January 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

3CanKeepASecret_post  It’s been a while since I read Archer Mayor’s latest, so this will be brief. Mayor upholds his own high standards and then some in this extremely enjoyable novel, the twenty-fourth (!!) entry in the Joe Gunther series. Agent Gunther is once again on the case, ably assisted by Willy Kunkel, Sammy Martens, and Lester Spinney, all working for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Irene, a woman named Carolyn Barber has disappeared from a state residential facility. It is urgent that she be found quickly. But Gunther and his colleagues are not the only ones with deep concern as to Barber’s whereabouts.

A succinct summary such as that I just wrote fails to convey the special pleasures of this novel. As always, Joe Gunther and his team are front and center, though at the same time they are among the most hard working, self-effacing protagonists in contemporary crime fiction. Willy Kunkel, in particular, is a genuine oddity – a person endowed with almost none of the of the social graces that everyone else takes for granted. Observers marvel that Sammy Martens can actually live with him. In fact, they now have a daughter, Emma, who, to the further amazement of all and sundry, is bringing out a softer side of Willy that no one knew even existed. (The person most surprised by this development is probably Willy himself.)

There’s a dark and dirty secret at the heart of Carolyn Barber’s disappearance. The VBI team keeps digging and getting closer and closer to the truth of the matter. Meanwhile, the Governor of Vermont has problems of her own. She’s Gail Zigman, Joe Gunther’s former lover, and she’s faced with the mother of all public relations disasters, engineered by  a ruthless power-seeking operative. She’s desperate for some inside information that Joe has access to. But when she asks him for it, he demurs on ethical grounds. As a result, their friendship suffers a blow which might be irreparable.

Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series is one of the few that I eagerly anticipate and always read. I don’t bother about reviews; I knew each new novel will be worthy of my attention. The scrupulous attention to detail, the believable and engaging characters, the cunning plots, the excellent writing – I know all will be present to add to m enjoyment.

I cannot sing the praises of this series highly enough, and Three Can Keep a Secret is an especially fine outing for Joe Gunther and company.

Archer Mayor on the Brattleboro-Hinsdale bridge in the city where his detective hero is based. (Christine Peterson for The Boston Globe)

Archer Mayor on the Brattleboro-Hinsdale bridge in the city where his detective hero is based. (Christine Peterson for The Boston Globe)


  1. kdwisni said,

    I wholeheartedly concur! I’ve always like this series, but this one is genuinely intriguing.

  2. Yvette said,

    I don’t know anyone else who reads Archer Mayor and your review reminds me that I read this terrific book last year and forgot to put on my list. (Just changed that.) Where is my mind lately? Gone with the wind. I do like Willy Kunkel.

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