An arson-homicide snares the Sage of Brattleboro in a web of tangled relationships.
Everyone who knows Bobby Cutts, 17, loves him for his sweet-tempered goodness. Everyone, that is, except Marianne (kiss-the-boys-and-make-them-crazy) Koch, who finds the sweet and good drab and dull. One night, when Bobby retreats to a barn to solace his Marianne-miseries, he perishes along with 60 cows in an inferno that makes no sense to Joe Gunther, second in command of Vermont’s most prestigious investigative body. Neither Bobby nor his family has enemies, yet someone’s undoubtedly set that fire with malice aforethought. Joe knows that happy families are often indistinguishable from the other kind under the skin. And Joe’s an expert at quietly, relentlessly stripping away the veneer to reveal motives like envy and rancor, disappointment and bitterness. But he’s not nearly as good at figuring himself out. His long-time affair with State Senator Gail Zigman is in trouble. Through what might be deliberate neglect, a veneer has formed there, too. Will Joe catch a killer and lose a lover?
The most understated cop in crime fiction (The Surrogate Thief, 2004, etc.) racks up a satisfying 16th in a series that marches confidently to its own unhurried beat.