cover image Open Season

Open Season

Archer Mayor. Putnam Publishing Group, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13398-5

Major's fine first novel features Joe Gunther, a police lieutenant in Brattleboro, Vt., who is as likable and sensitive a hero as Robert B. Parker's Spenser, but who possesses a freshly intelligent voice all his own. A wealthy young man seeking his stolen dog is killed by a frightened widow who has been set up expect an intruder; a young woman is assaulted by a ski-masked man with a false tattoo. Gunther connects the victims to their service as jurors on a trial three years before, in which a Vietnam veteran was quickly convicted of murdering a young woman. Pressured not to stir old fires by police and political figures alike, Gunther is determined to pursue the case when an attempt is made on his own life by the man in the ski mask. Doggedly, Gunther persists in his investigations even after the police chief, his best friend, is killed in a car accident that Gunther himself barely survives. Set in the dead of Vermont winter, this atmospheric procedural has some fascinating sections on forensic medicine. Its chilling climax in a snow storm is followed by a satisfying wrap-up in which the true identities of the original murder victim, her murderer and man with the ski mask are revealed and their connections explained. Mysterious Book Club alternate. (September)