Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Autumn Arrives -- Along with the New Joe Gunther Mystery from Archer Mayor, TAG MAN

You can see the color in the trees now -- that's how we say it up here, as the Green Mountains become freckled with patches of scarlet. Come hurricane or climate change, autumns colors arrive, and proclaim the crisp days and cold starry nights ahead.

With the change of season, we've learned to expect the new police procedural from Archer Mayor, whose Vermont mysteries feature Joe Gunther and various members of his team. My favorite part of this series is how familiar the team members become, like parts of the family: wounded and a but nuts at times, but you love them anyway. TAG MAN, scheduled for September 27 release, will be a welcome addition to the Archer Mayor shelf.

The book opens with a new criminal in the Brattleboro, Vermont, area, a man whose pleasure includes slipping, undetected, into the homes of sleeping citizens, peering at them as they sleep, and leaving a short note to say he's been there. It's a profoundly unsettling form of crime, and when the silent visitor appears involved in more than just high-tech peeping, the community demands police action.

For Joe's team, that's easier said than done. Willy Kunkle, erratic as always, is a new father; Sammy Martens is involved with the new baby the two of them have welcomed; and Joe himself, well, he's on leave. The psychiatrist he's seeing sums up the reasons, which readers of the preceding book, Red Herring, will recognize as the doctor spells them out:
"I do know a few things. I know that Governor [Gail] Zigman was then running for office and that the gunman had been aiming for her, thinking she was still your girlfriend. I also know that while she and you had been a couple for many years, that the young lady who died was in fact your new companion. Is that essentially correct?"

Joe's expression was rueful. "In clinical terms, yes. Nice detached way to describe a train wreck."
With his personal life in pieces, what use can Joe be to investigation of the crime spree in the region? How might "organized crime" be involved? What dangers face new parents Willy and Sam, and can an emotionally damaged team leader protect them?

Polished, carefully paced, TAG MAN is a classic Joe Gunther novel, and opens an intriguing Vermont window on community and its ability to handle diversity. It's a must for seasoned fans of the series; newcomers should start with Red Herring (or earlier; Tag Man is number 22), to catch up with what's at stake. Thanks, Archer!
Fans new and old: Come meet Archer Mayor here at Kingdom Books on Saturday October 15 at 2 p.m. Fair warning -- two years ago, this man of many hats arrived in bulletproof vest, delayed a few minutes by a training exercise; last year, as I recall, he needed to watch the clock because a dead body was awaiting his signature, as a state "death examiner." And after you read TAG MAN, you'll have many more questions to ask this investigator and author!

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