cover image The Ragman's Memory

The Ragman's Memory

Archer Mayor. Mysterious Press, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-636-3

A child discovers human hair and scalp in a bird's nest, triggering a complex murder investigation for Brattleboro, Vt., police lieutenant Joe Gunther. In his seventh adventure (after The Dark Root), Gunther finds that the victim, troubled teenager Shawna Davis, had known local activist Mary Wallis, who abruptly dropped her opposition to a planned convention center soon before Shawna was murdered. Wallis is missing. Politician Ned Fallows supported the project, then retired and left town. A vagrant dies mysteriously. A nursing home patient is murdered in her bed. As Gunther tries to connect these events, Selectman Thomas Chambers (NeverTom, the locals call him, because he dislikes the nickname) pressures police to ease up. Gunther doggedly picks his way through this maze with the help of his lover, Gail Zigman, and a determined detective squad. The solution lies in the memory of a shell-shocked Battle of the Bulge survivor who still sees German spies everywhere, but may have seen a real killer, too. Joe Gunther is a sympathetic, regular guy who excels at a tough job in a beautiful, if unforgiving, environment. Mayor highlights tensions between proponents of development and those who would preserve Vermont's beauty, making this solid noir mystery an offbeat New England tourguide, too. (Dec.)