Saturday, June 08, 2013

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom: Suspense Thriller from John Vibber, KINGDOM COME

The northeastern wedge of Vermont that wings away from the north-south thrust of the state is called the Northeast Kingdom -- specifically, three counties that add up to about 65,000 people and a lot of second-growth forest. The region has a gentler landscape than the rest of the state; the Green Mountains fade away here, and though the rivers brought early trade and industry (along the same byways that the Abenaki tribe and its forebears traveled), towns formed late and even today are small, where neighbors know you by name. And a neighbor may live four or five miles away.

The most rural part of this landscape, the town of Canaan, Vermont, hosts the action of John Vibber's second mystery, KINGDOM COME. The first printing of the book ran last summer, but two corrected versions knocked me off schedule for a review. So here we go: Now's a good time to consider picking up a copy for the summer-cabin bookshelf, or as a gift to your hosts where you're spending some vacation time. Though there are some rough edges (as expected for a self-published mystery), Vibber knows a good tale and spins a complex one here -- one that involves a militia, violent plots to overthrow the local peace, and casual murder by psychopaths who enlist each other in a tightening net of threat and danger.

Cleverly, Vibber sets the book a few years back, instead of forward -- 1997, at the time when the approaching Millennium, the year 2000, brought global concerns that involved computer networks crashing, power grids failing, and political chaos, thanks to presumed issues with software and the change from the 1990s dates. Investigating a rogue group that seems to be operating out of a printing business just across the river in the wildest part of New Hampshire is Reilly Bostwick, familiar from Vibber's first mystery. Settled harmoniously with Adele Clayton (the couple has knitted well together, after the murder that put them at such risk in Shadow on Cant-Dog Hill, Vibber's first book), Bostwick has no intention of putting his family in danger again.

But his daughter and Adele's, Amy Bostwick and Lottie Clayton, aged 19, need summer jobs after their freshman year of college "away." When their former babysitter, Nicole, is murdered, they have no clue there's a link to the print shop where they're seeking work. And terms like "Tribulation" and "the Rapture" don't sound dangerous, even when they're part of some odd documents that the print shop issues.
"But what do these Miller Press pamphlets mean?" asked Amy. "Are they trying to make the chaos happen or trying to take advantage of it?"

"I think that there'll always be huge world problems and some people trying to profit by scaring others," said Reilly [Amy's dad]. ... "I think that Miller Press is trying to stir up fear and profit from it. I don't know if this is dangerous or just ugly."
Turns out it's both. Vibber's deft twisting of strands and the narrative's swift dodging from investigator to criminal and back again keep the action lively. And once the FBI gets involved, the risk actually rises for Lottie and Amy.

Clear some summer hours for this adventurous local read -- John Vibber's retirement career as mystery author is providing a lively local thriller with lots of connections to what could really be happening at the next cabin up the lake's shore. Available as both softcover and e-book through that big online retailer, but you'll have more fun (and get more into the spirit of local authors!) if you ask your independent bookstore to order in a copy or two. One to keep, one to share with a summer friend.

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