cover image Bellows Falls

Bellows Falls

Archer Mayor. Mysterious Press, $21.5 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-637-0

With this eighth Joe Gunther novel (The Ragman's Memory, 1996, etc.), Mayor delivers another superb combination of case, characters and local color and brings it all to life without a wasted word. Gunther, a Brattleboro, Vt., police lieutenant, is loaned out to the nearby Bellows Falls department to investigate officer Brian Padgett. The cop has been charged with sexual harassment by Jan Bouch, the troubled wife of suspected drug dealer Norm Bouch. Gunther suspects that Norm has forced Jan to frame Padgett, even after the officer tests positive for cocaine. Although Norm Bouch has never been caught, police believe that he controls a large network of young drug sellers, who have a way of vanishing (or turning up dead) when they're linked to him. As Gunther searches, he must deal with the poverty-poisoned town's frustrated police chief, who hopes his department's problems will fade before he retires, and the protective hometown cop who keeps his air-conditioning on and the windows down, a trick to stay cool and still hear the warning sounds of trouble. Through it all, Gunther compassionately observes Vermont mill towns and their people who, left for economically dead in recent decades, are struggling mightily to find new lives. (Dec.)