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Archer Mayor, . . Grand Central, $24.99 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-446-58258-2

Relationships always drive Mayor's plots, but never more so than in this intricate, suspense-filled 18th Joe Gunther novel (after 2006's The Second Mouse ). When Gunther's mother and brother are almost killed in a suspicious car accident, he helps Deputy Sheriff Rob Barrows narrow in on a local, lawless family with a grievance against the Gunthers. Meanwhile, the investigation of two similar but seemingly unrelated deaths leads Gunther's colleagues at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation to online chat rooms where older men pick up teen girls. Gunther's former lover, Gail Zigman, makes an appearance, but Lyn Silva, last seen in 2004's The Surrogate Thief , takes center stage as his new love interest. This book takes Gunther all over Vermont, offering occasional breaks from the tension with evocative descriptions of mountains and snow. Though Mayor is considered a regional writer, his books intelligently deal with subjects of national concern, and Gunther's crime-solving skills and personal charisma have broad appeal. (Oct.)