The Company She Kept: A Joe Gunther Novel

Image of The Company She Kept: A Joe Gunther Novel (Joe Gunther Series)
Release Date: 
September 28, 2015
Minotaur Books
Reviewed by: 

Once readers have gobbled up The Company She Kept, there are 25 other volumes to discover or reread until the next one comes out.”

Good novels are so annoying . . . keeping you from what you’re supposed to be doing. And Archer Mayor, dang him, has delivered another one, so lots of chores and duties won’t be getting done until readers finish this gripping regional mystery.

Mayor does for Vermont what Tony Hillerman does for Arizona, showing readers the mixed cultures of a remote place and how its harsh yet glorious environment influences their lives—and crimes. He also populates his series with a troupe of finely drawn, deep, and original characters who feel like real people in our lives.

In this latest volume of the Lieutenant Joe Gunther police procedural series, a Vermont state senator is sensationally murdered and hung off a cliff beside the highway to make a statement. But is that statement sincere or a smokescreen? It touches so many political hot buttons that it might be hiding a more personal motive.

Joe and his team of hand-picked specialists find the case abrading their own personal lives, as well, which adds private motivation to the public pressure to find the killer. The team combines the standard drudgery of investigation in a Vermont winter with thinking outside the box to untangle the knotted threads leading to the truth.

Although the story centers on Joe, the mild-mannered but iron-willed leader of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, it changes point of view to his team members, or sometimes the criminals, to show how the disparate elements of the crime and investigation connect. In this volume, Joe occupies an especially tricky position: The victim was the current lover of Joe’s ex-lover, now the governor of Vermont. Both he and she are tainted by the company that the victim kept, giving rise to the book’s title.

This series is so mature now that the team knows its strengths and weaknesses and can apply them efficiently, making enough mistakes to stay human. They might bend a few rules along the way and trade some favors, but they give us faith in law enforcement by never turning corrupt and always maintaining compassion.

The author keeps things fresh by changing emphasis in each volume, showcasing different characters and devising intriguing crimes. He has many years of direct experience in law enforcement in his rural state, enabling him to present the story believably in a masterful hand. Readers are pulled right in and carried briskly along, supplied with what they need to know when they need to know it—no more, no less—as if perched on the characters’ shoulders while the investigation unfolds.

Luckily for loyal fans, Mayor produces one of these books every autumn and shows no signs of stopping. Once readers have gobbled up The Company She Kept, there are 25 other volumes to discover or reread until the next one comes out.