The dead man looks Slavic, decides Lieutenant Joe Gunther, chief of detectives in Brattleboro, Vermont. It’s not an observation calculated to kick-start an investigation, but on the other hand what else is there? Nothing in the pockets, all labels cut from the clothes. Just this deceased out-of-towner disposed of in a deserted local quarry. And then the plot thickens when Joe receives a phone call from a double-talking CIA desk-jockey. If Joe will come to Washington, says the Beltway smoothie, he might get some corpse-in-the-quarry enlightenment. Joe goes, but what he gets is mugged—right in front of the Korean War Memorial—by a thug who seems to have known he’d be there. And as far as the CIA is concerned, that enigmatic outfit appears to have lost all interest in Joe and his bothersome corpse. But now Joe’s troubles intensify in a way nothing in his long career has prepared him for: he’s framed. Someone plants a diamond brooch in his pocket, and suddenly there’s Joe, the very model of a straight-arrow law enforcement officer, arrested, then indicted for grand larceny. Clearly, he’s high on someone’s enemies list. But why? And whose? Pertinent questions that get addressed (after a fashion) only in the wake of a wild car-chase and a bloody shoot-out, participated in by invading forces that convert backwater Brattleboro into an exotic battleground. And exotic is the problem here. The strength of this durable series (Bellows Falls, 1997, etc.) has always been its insularity: local settings; sharp small-town characterizations; home-grown police procedures. While the CIA remained locked in Langley, the Russian Mafia mired in Moscow, Brattleboro, unencumbered, could throb with life. And did.