Fans of Mayor’s sturdy Brattleboro series (Tucker Peak, 2001, etc.) know Willy Kunkle as the stormy petrel of Joe Gunther’s Vermont Bureau of Investigation. But Mayor’s series hero likes Willy and has always supported him, enduring his quirkiness for the sake of his talent. Now, however, Joe’s loyalty is about to be severely tested. Wild Willy’s own case begins with a phone call that sends him flagrantly AWOL. The call, from a New York cop, informs Willy of the sudden demise of his ex-wife and asks whether he can make his way to the city to identify her body. Willie ID’s her, all right, then proceeds to ID her cause of death as something other than accidental. Turns out the former Mrs. Kunkle was deeply involved in a good many complicated, illegal activities, including blackmail, the enterprise that eventually got her snuffed. Driven by his own peculiar code of honor, Willy mounts an investigation that is both unorthodox and lethal, sending out bad guys in body bags at a pace that does nothing to endear him to local law enforcement. Still, he does solve the case and even gains an insight or two into the mystery of Willy Kunkle. And Joe, accompanied by Detective Sammy Martens, Willy’s patient and understanding lover, arrives in time to extricate him from the NYPD’s tender mercies.
Wild Willy holds the stage well enough, but those sharp, edgy Brattleboro portraits, series mainstays until now, will be missed.