cover image The Skeleton's Knee

The Skeleton's Knee

Archer Mayor. Mysterious Press, $18.95 (311pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-470-3

Although its population hovers around a mere 13,000, Brattleboro, Vt., has a four-man, one-woman detective force any metropolis--and any reader--can look up to. In his fourth outing, after Scent of Evil , chief of detectives, Lt. Joe Gunther is confronted with ``one very old, cold homicide'' after an orthopedic patient in a local hospital dies from an aneurysm brought on by a bullet fired 20 years before. The man had given the hospital no information other than his name, Abraham Fuller, and when asked how he meant to pay, pulled out $5000 in banded bundles of old, worn bills. Gunther investigates the isolated cabin where Fuller had lived a hermit's life since the hippie days, and discovers a chart of odd symbols, an empty holster, some ancient bullets--and a bag containing $300,000. But it's the discovery of a skeleton in Fuller's carefully tended garden that sends Gunther to Chicago for the second half of the book. There's fine work here. The complicated plot, embracing past crimes and current ones, spins with revelation and surprise; the numerous characters are fully developed; and the villain, once revealed, is everything a villain should be. (Dec.)