Book Review | The Price of Malice
When Archer Mayor published his first murder mystery about Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont, police force, I wondered how long he could keep it up. There aren’t many murders in Vermont. I figured he’d have to start killing people in other states to keep Joe busy, and the books might lose their rooted charm. He did, and they did, sometimes. But The Price of Malice (St. Martin’s/Minotaur, $24.99), Mayor’s 20th, is firmly embedded in Brattleboro, with all its endearing quirks.
What I’ve always liked about Joe Gunther is his ordinariness. Now with the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, he’s getting old, and his personal life is messy, which creates interesting professional tensions in this yarn.
Joe spends a lot of time in Maine pulling his new girlfriend out of a jam, and when he does, the narrative sags a bit. The cops he works with there don’t have the personality of his usual prickly crew. But when he’s in Bratt, every sensory impression feels right, even if it’s the stink of a body found in a low-rent apartment with no air conditioning. That’s why The Price of Malice is Mayor’s best in a long time.