"Paradise City" by Archer Mayor
Reviewed by David Marshall James
VBI agent Joe Gunther and his band of eclectic-- some would say "eccentric"-- fellow detectives are more concerned with what's happening in Paradise than in their HQ, Brattleboro.
Brattleboro, Vermont, to be precise. Hence, the "V" in Gunther's agency acronym.
Paradise, surprisingly, isn't that far from Brattleboro. Just a ways over the state line. In mindset-- in tone and temperament-- however, Northampton, Massachusetts (nickname: Paradise City), might as well be at the long end of some Indiana Jones expedition.
It's got Smith College, a thriving arts community, free-thinkers of every stripe, and Gay Pride in every shade of the rainbow.
Nevertheless, as one would expect, Joe G. & Co. wouldn't be descending upon Northampton unless there were-- trouble in Paradise.
With a capital "T," and that rhymes with ... no, it just stands for "thievery." Thievery, and a potpourri of other illicit activities.
High-end house break-in's from Beacon Hill to Brattleboro are plotted on a detectives' grid, whereon all lines intersect at Northampton.
This multijurisdictional, multidepartmental affair also encompasses an angry young Bostonian whose grandmother's house has been burgled of heirloom jewelry. Gold is, after all, trading at stratospheric prices. But, it's not all that easy to cash in on "hot" loot.
The young woman is less concerned about the missing bling than she is about the extreme beating Granny took from startled thieves. She may be a New Englander; however, she's out for some Wild West vigilante justice, which goes against the rules in the Guntherian playbook.
Vermont author Archer Mayor deals in a complete spectrum of local color in his latest Joe Gunther novel (the 23rd). All the characters are well-fleshed out, with distinctive traits and attitudes. The author also sets up some fine, old-fashioned moments of suspense when Gunther goes undercover to an abandoned hotel, and then to a massive, deserted, Cold War-era bunker.
Nothing juices the adrenaline quite like a boarded-up, sagging-porch hotel on a secluded, wooded mountaintop. At night.
Brattleboro may not be Paradise, but Gunther will be grateful to return to his own cramped office and his minimally-square-footed apartment. When the case is closed.
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