In the l9th of this estimable series (Chat, 2007, etc.), Joe Gunther catches two cases simultaneously and, for awhile, fumbles both.
Nobody’s ever liked Wayne Castine—bully, sexual predator, all-around lowlife. So when he’s found murdered, the citizens of Brattleboro, Vt., don’t break out in black. The list of usual suspects isn’t just ample or voluminous but well-nigh universal. Having caught the case, however, Joe Gunther’s five-person team in the Vermont Bureau of Investigation proceeds in its customary, intensely focused manner. Well, four-fifths of it does. The boss himself is distracted. Gunther’s ladylove, Lyn Silva, has had her world suddenly rocked, bringing Joe’s empathy to a rolling boil and seriously dividing his attention. Lyn’s father and brother, both lobstermen, had long been presumed lost at sea—a tragic end, but honorable enough to leaven her grief. Now it seems that their deaths have a backstory that may involve drug dealing and, as a direct result, brutal murder. Lyn needs answers; Joe wants to help find them. But his attempt to work two investigations at once creates a management vacuum into which Willie Kunkle, his talented, tempestuous and often least reliable agent moves with guns blazing.
The even-tempered Sage of Brattleboro is as appealing as ever. Still, wouldn’t it be satisfying if, just once, Joe Gunther would flat out lose it and pull a Kunkle?