cover image Fruits of the Poisonous Tree

Fruits of the Poisonous Tree

Archer Mayor. Mysterious Press, $19.95 (295pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-557-1

This latest case featuring Brattleboro, Vt., detective Joe Gunther is the series' most ambitious entry-and its most flawed. Two hours after Joe leaves the bed of his lover, Gail Zigman, she is raped. The rapist's methodology-including tiny knife wounds, property destruction and underwear draped across a lamp shade-strongly hints at the identity of Gail's assailant: local deadbeat and drunk Bob Vogel, who has raped before and gotten away with it. This time the case against Vogel is a sound one, especially after he stabs Joe during a chase in an underground tunnel. But there are subtle discrepancies between Gail's rape and Vogel's earlier ones. Is there a copycat rapist on the prowl? Mayor's attempt to enter the traumatized minds of Gail and Joe is courageous and partially successful, but too many cardboard characters impede the story. The feminists supporting Gail are too strident, the local newspaperman is too crusading, the local politicians are too self-serving and the prime suspect is too, too vile. This novel is, overall, a morass-and an unexpected one after the author's success with such earlier Joe Gunther novels as Borderlines. Author tour. (Dec.)