Archer Mayor is the author of the highly acclaimed Vermont-based series featuring detective Joe Gunther, which the Chicago Tribune describes as “the best police procedurals being written in America.” His 28th book, TRACE, is due September 26, 2017 (Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press). Archer was recently honored with the 2016 Robert B. Parker (aka ‘The Dean of Mystery Writers’) Award and the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction in 2012 —the first time a writer of crime literature has been so honored. In 2011, Mayor’s 22nd Joe Gunther novel, TAG MAN, earned a place on The New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction.
Before turning his hand to fiction, Mayor wrote history books, the most notable of which, "Southern Timberman: The Legacy of William Buchanan," concerned the lumber and oil business in Louisiana from the 1870s to the 1970s. This book was published in 1988 and very well received; it was republished as a trade paperback in 2009.
Archer Mayor is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, the publisher of his own backlist, a travel writer for AAA, and he travels the Northeast giving speeches and conducting workshops. He has 25 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. Mayor was brought up in the US, Canada and France and had been employed as a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. In addition to writing novels and occasional articles, Mayor gives talks and workshops all around the country, including the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine. Archer’s love of riding his motorcycle (Yamaha V Star 950) earned him a profile in Rider Magazine in the June 2017 edition.
Mayor’s critically-acclaimed series of police novels feature Lt. Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont, police department. The books, which have been appearing about once a year since 1988, have been published in five languages (if you count British), and routinely gather high praise from such sources as The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, and others, often appearing on their “ten best” yearly lists.
Whereas many writers base their books only on interviews and scholarly research, Mayor’s novels are based on actual experience in the field. The result adds a depth, detail and veracity to his characters and their tribulations that has led The New York Times to call him “the boss man on procedures”.
Joe Gunther, one of the most honorable lawmen you’d ever hope to meet, is the designated mourner in Archer Mayor’s rugged regional mysteries. Over the course of some two dozen novels, the former Brattleboro cop, now a senior officer with the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, has borne witness to all the scourges of modern times — from the meth epidemic to freakish acts of nature like Hurricane Irene — that have laid havoc to his home state. But in the background, there have always been glimpses of another painful legacy — the human fallout from the Vietnam War — that now steps out from the shadows in PROOF POSITIVE (Minotaur, $25.99). No one in the village of Dummerston gave much thought to an eccentric hoarder named Benjamin Kendall until a hapless thief burgles his old farmhouse and finds Kendall buried under the towering mounds of detritus. A sad business, but not a case for a major crimes unit like the V.B.I., you’d think; until another body is pulled from the artfully arranged rubble. As it turns out, the reclusive hoarder was a photojournalist who had suffered a brain injury in Vietnam. Thanks to an enterprising art student who arranged for an exhibition of his war photos at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Kendall had finally come to the attention of the art world — and of an enemy who would kill to keep the past buried in the past.
Gunther, himself an ex-combat soldier, understands that to someone like Kendall, Vietnam was “a war that had fed on his soul forever after.” That sentiment is shared by vets like Willy Kunkle, Gunther’s “downcast, pessimistic, sarcastic” deputy. Not to mention that other vet, the mysterious power broker bankrolling the two sociopathic hit men who murdered Kendall and are now after the art student in possession of his war images. The manhunt takes Gunther on a rather pointless trip south, through the treacherous terrain of New Jersey and into foreign lands like Philadelphia and Washington. Which is how it comes to pass that one of the killers has the last, most eloquent word on Vermont, “this far northern, thinly populated state, reputed for its independence, mountainous isolation and hardy, terse inhabitants,” where “nature was the ruling force — patient, benignly dominant and passively lethal to the unprepared.”
Readers in the know, like you and you and you, know to study Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries for coded references to contemporary issues. There are plenty of those in BLOOD ON THE WATER (Ballantine, $26), which opens with a terrorist bombing of a pleasure boat that sends some 200 partygoers to their watery deaths. The opening of the Suez Canal has been contentious, and with foreign dignitaries on board the party boat and an Egyptian malcontent now under arrest, the case is thought to be too politically fraught to be entrusted to the Thames River Police.
William Monk, commander of the river police and the hero of this unfailingly rewarding series, is stung by the insult and sets out to prove that the investigation was a travesty, and the trial a farce. A second trial has a fairer outcome, but it leaves the public reeling from the realization that the English justice system, “the bedrock on which their beliefs of themselves were built,” could be corrupted by men who place personal gain above justice.
Are we there yet? Keigo Higashino again proves his mastery of the diabolical puzzle mystery with MALICE (Minotaur, $24.99), a story with more turns, twists, switchbacks and sudden stops than a Tokyo highway during Golden Week. The narrator, Osamu Nonoguchi, seems like a good guy, the sort of person who goes out of his way to admire a cherry tree in blossom, as he does here when paying a visit to his friend Kunihiko Hidaka, a celebrated author who is moving to Canada. But the first rule of thumb when reading this crafty author is never to trust the narrator. Sure enough, when Hidaka is found dead and the detective Kyoichiro Kaga picks up the narrative, the policeman quickly fingers the victim’s friend as his killer. Admirers of the well-made whodunit know the drill about questioning facts and suspecting everyone. Higashino plays this game as well as any of those legendary golden age authors poring over their railroad timetables. But what makes him a genius at this sport is the care with which he devises a motive — in this case, professional jealousy — to fit the crime.
The people in M. L. Longworth’s charming Provençal mysteries always seem to be on holiday. MURDER ON THE ÎLE SORDOU (Penguin, paper, $15) brings Antoine Verlaque and Marine Bonnet, sleuths in this series, to the Locanda Sordou, a refurbished grand hotel on an enchanted island in an archipelago off the coast of Marseilles. The idea is to pick the guest you would like to see murdered from a gallery of stereotypes: an elderly poet, a faded party girl, a has-been movie star, a vulgar American couple and a pair of picky Parisians. Longworth never seems to run out of verbal coinage to describe the beauty of Sordou, the manifold glories of the hotel or the many moods of the Mediterranean Sea. And it’s pure pleasure to watch Émile Villey, the Locanda’s chef, devising ingenious ways to create wondrous meals on what is essentially a barren rock in the middle of the sea.Continue reading the main story