Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Company She Kept: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor

First Sentence: “Pull over, Doug. I want to get a shot of this.”

The body of a Vermont State Senator, with the word “dyke” carved in her chest, is found hanging from a cliff retaining net along the interstate. A close friend and ally of Governor Gail Zigman, she requests that Joe Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation take the lead on the case. Although this could be a hate crime, Joe and his team aren’t so certain.

Mayor’s use of imagery provides a wonderful sense of place…”Several homes sported thin plumes of woodsmoke from the chimneys, making Doug think of feather quills protruding from toy-sized inkwells.” Not only does the pastoral beauty quickly desert us, but shocks us by the subsequent events.

Mayor is very good at introducing readers to each of the principal characters, providing us with a sense of who they are and how they relate to one another, including equating Willie to the perpetually pessimistic Eeyore from A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh.” Nothing creates a clearer image. We are also delighted by Joe’s new housemate, Gilbert. That Joe and his team work well as a team, makes them interesting both individually and as a unit. Even though who have been following the series for years will find new insights into Joe, and enjoy watching the relationship between Willie and Sam grow.

Having a strong, distinct voice is so critical for an author and Mayor more than achieves that goal. …”That central hall told the take of the house—wood panels, stained-glass windows, both soaring overhead to a vaulted, coffered ceiling and an enormous chandelier—suspended like a relic caught between the Middle Ages and “Downtown Abbey.”

No matter one’s personal views, Mayor skillfully addresses the roll sex and sexuality has in today’s politics. It is no longer a private issue, but a public one. And yet…”a disclosure like hers should have by now become irrelevant as right- or left-handedness. The ending did seem very abrupt and rather unsatisfying, in spite of the poetic justice.

The Company She Kept” is a character-driven mystery, with an excellent plot twist, and a case solved by teamwork and following the clues.

THE COMPANY SHE KEPT (Pol Proc-Joe Gunther-Vermont-Contemp) - VG
Mayor, Archer – 26th in series
Minotaur Books – Sept 2015

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