cover image Occams Razor

Occams Razor

Archer Mayor. Mysterious Press, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-682-0

Mayor's sturdy series about police lieutenant Joe Gunther of Brattleboro, Vt., has much more on its mind than just mystery. Each book tackles at least one important social issue, from the encroachment of the Russian mafia to the impact on New England of smuggled Chinese immigrants. The 10th in the series (after 1998's The Disposable Man) is no exception: toxic waste is a major subject, and so is the political infighting surrounding a plan to drastically change the way Vermont's many police agencies are run. Gunther and his believably mixed bag of investigators also have to deal with the murder of a man left unconscious on a railroad track, the knifing death of a woman living on the fringes of the law and a series of phone calls that implicate an ambitious politician in both crimes. Meanwhile, Guther's living arrangements with prosecutor Gail Zigman are under severe strain, and two of his top detectives are having romantic problems as well. All the story strings are woven with the common sense and low-key heroics that characterize the series, but Mayor's greatest strength remains his uncanny ability to capture the seedy, seamy sides of life in his home state of Vermont--from evil-smelling public housing projects to factories and workshops rusting away behind the scenic but deceptively pretty greenery. (Nov.)