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Borderlines (Joe Gunther Series #2)

Borderlines (Joe Gunther Series #2)

4.5 28
by Archer Mayor

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The second novel in the Joe Gunther re-release promotion finds Gunther in Gannet, Vermont. The quiet town is rocked by violence and murder when five members of a back-to-nature cult die in a suspicious fire.


The second novel in the Joe Gunther re-release promotion finds Gunther in Gannet, Vermont. The quiet town is rocked by violence and murder when five members of a back-to-nature cult die in a suspicious fire.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this sophisticated mystery, Lieutenant Joe Gunther, acting chief of the Brattleboro, Vt., police department, makes his second appearance; the first was in Mayor's superlative Open Season. Seeking a rest from his stressful job, Gunther procures a temporary assignment to Gannet, Vt., the site of his boyhood summer vacations. The tone of his tenure is set when a suspicious fire claims five lives. The dead are all members of the Natural Order, a mysterious back-to-nature cult that has created dissension in the economically depressed town by buying up much of its property. Gunther, who is nearly killed in the fire, becomes a member of the team investigating its cause. Then another corpse is found. The victim, stabbed to death, was searching for his daughter, a cult member. Gunther begins to question his professionalism once he realizes that the prime suspect in these killings is his best friend. The situation is further complicated by the refusal of the Order members to cooperate with the police and by the townspeople's growing distrust of Gunther. After another gory murder is committed, Gunther follows his instincts with near-fatal results. He learns that the Gannet of his boyhood happiness is gone--maybe forever. Mayor's polished sentences and adroit deductive reasoning add depth and style. (Oct.)
Marilyn Stasio
Invigorating...Mr. Mayor has an astonishing control of his craft. -- New York Times
From the Publisher
“A powerful series, and this is only book two.”

Kirkus Reviews

“First rate… Mayor has a way with white-knuckle final scenes, and he does it again in this atmospheric story.”

Los Angeles Times

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Joe Gunther Series , #2

Read an Excerpt

I only half-saw it at first, a slight movement of brown against brown. I was also far away, so to have noticed it at all was sheer luck. I took my foot off the accelerator and let the car slow down on its own. A glance ahead and into the rearview mirror confirmed I was the only one on the interstate.

The deer hesitated at the edge of the bank leading down to the southbound lane, parallel to my own. Its hide was just slightly darker than the frost-killed grass at its feet, its rack intermixing with the grayish-brown bare branches of the small trees behind it. I rolled the window down, letting the cool November air flush out the car’s stale, warm interior.

The deer shifted its weight and sniffed suspiciously at the breeze, weighing its own inbred caution against whatever was tempting it to cross both broad lanes and the grassy median in between.

I took the engine out of gear and continued rolling until I ran out of momentum, coming to a stop in the breakdown lanes as gently as a leaf striking the ground. The deer barely glanced at me. It took two tentative steps away from its cover and froze again.

It had good reason to be fearful. It was November-hunting season—and the antlers on this buck’s head testified to a past ability at staying alive. I moved my own eyes across the distance he had to travel before gaining the trees on my side of the road, wondering, if I were him, whether I’d run the risk.

I decided I wouldn’t but he stepped forward, placing his forefeet on the pavement. I looked around slowly, checking for other signs of life. I didn’t see a thing, not even a bird. Still, I fought the urge to get out of the car, even to press the horn, and instantly end the debate.

The sun, just inches above the low, rounded, dark purple mountains in the distance, had caught him fully now, revealing the subtleties of his coat, the glistening of his twitching nose. I abandoned any notions of becoming his guardian angel and scaring him away. He—and all of nature’s dominance in this isolated area-was one of the reasons I was up in this sparse northeastern corner of Vermont. Aside from the intrusion of this road and its kin, and a few towns along the way, this was his country, thinly populated, covered with trees, thrust up like a hilly plateau against an omnipotent and often querulous sky. I was the useless outrigger here-far be it from me to tell him what to do.

He moved purposely now, head high, his white-winged tail flipping back and forth. I could see the tension in his tapered legs, but he kept his poise, as if on parade. He would not give this road the satisfaction of his undignified flight.

The rifle shot came as if in a church—intrusive, heart stopping, sacrilegiously loud and startling. The buck froze, its eyes wide with wonder, and then it glanced back at its own hind legs, which were collapsing as if on their own. A second shot rang out as I leapt from the car and began to run toward him. He saw me then, perhaps blamed me as his head fell back and his antlers rattled against the hard, cold, surface of the road.

I stopped beside him, breathing hard, the vapor from my lungs encircling my head. The deer was very still, the only movement being the steaming blood slowly spreading from its open mouth. Its eyes were wide open, still registering my image, I thought.

I looked around. No one was going to appear now. What had happened was flagrantly illegal—discharging a weapon in proximity of an interstate highway. The hunter would wait for me to leave. I wished I had the strength to lift this huge beast into my car and deliver him to a game warden to deprive its killer of the satisfaction of possession and of later tall tales of peerless hunting.

But I couldn’t.

I bent over, reached out and touched the warm, smooth hide with my fingertips, reminded suddenly of my own losses—real and imagined. If only I’d given warning when I’d thought none was necessary.

I stood up again slowly, anger replacing shock. The location of the wounds indicated that the shots had come from the same side as the deer, but farther south. I began to walk in that direction, cutting diagonally across both lanes of the interstate, my eyes glued to the treeline above the road bank, watching for any movement, listening for any sound. I knew, as if I could actually feel them, that another unseen pair of eyes was watching me come.

I was on the southbound lane’s divider line when I saw it—a flash of fluorescent orange—accompanied by a hunter’s heavy boots crushing the brush underfoot as he moved.

“Stop where you are. Police.” I began running the rest of the distance to the treeline, straight to where I’d seen that one bright flicker of color.

Just before I entered the woods, I glanced back to see the two parallel blacktop ribbons, my car, its exhaust pluming smoke in the crisp cold air, and the body of the deer. From this angle, the animal must have presented an almost irresistible target, its muscular outline highlighted against the black of the road and the pale horizon, a temptation only decency and sportsmanship might have stilled, and obviously had not.

I hadn’t walked ten feet into the woods before I was utterly enveloped in its dense, dark embrace. I stopped, listening. The hunter had bolted late in my approach, and could only have covered a short distance before I’d reached this spot. I scanned the dark curtain of trees before me, aware of only the absolute stillness, and the sound of my own heart beating from the exertion of the run.

“I’m a police officer. You’ve already broken one law; don’t add resisting arrest. Come on out.”

The vapor from my tinny-sounding words hovered briefly about my face and then vanished in the answering silence.

I looked to the forest floor, hoping to see some tracks, but tracking wasn’t one of my strengths, at least not in the woods. All I could see was a tangle of twigs, rotting leaves, and frozen brush.

The sudden, blinding combination of a third rifle shot and the explosion its bullet made in the tree trunk next to me threw me to the ground before I could think, my Korea-bred instincts suddenly as keen as they had been many years earlier.

With my face to the ground, breathing in the damp mustiness of the near-frozen earth, I waited for the ringing in my ears to fade. Behind it, fading also, I could hear a body crashing away through the forest.

It had been a warning from a hunter whose initial purpose had not been sport. That deer in the road had not been shot for a trophy and some bragging, as I’d imagined. It had been meat, a hedge against the winter, a hungry and self-sufficient man’s necessity for survival, as he saw it. He had not missed killing me; he had warned me to back off.

I got up slowly and brushed myself off. Ahead of me, some one hundred and fifty feet away, I saw an orange hunting jacket hanging from a tree branch-a single bright beacon in an ever-darkening, cold and silent world. It was another warning: he was a hunter no longer, but a man with a gun, dressed to blend into his chosen environment. He could now stand with impunity next to a tree, invisible beyond fifty feet, and fill his rifle scope with my chest.

I was now in Vermont’s so-called Northeast Kingdom-poor, isolated, thinly populated by people who had chosen to put their independence and wariness of the rest of the world above the hardships of living here. The man watching me had no interest in killing me, but he did want it known that he would if he had to.

I stood absolutely still, watching, listening, aware now that my movements were my only relevant spokesmen. A line had been drawn. I could die defending the rights of a dead deer, or I could retire and leave the field to my unseen opponent and his more ancient, instinctive code of moral right and wrong.

I returned to my car, as depressed as I’d been angry when I’d left it. It had been a short and violent reminder of the limitations of legal authority. Here, in this high, cold country, the law had less to do with rules and more with personal honor. Often, they were one and the same, but not always.

I got back behind the wheel, drove around the carcass, and continued north.

What People are Saying About This

David Lindsay
Archer Mayor knows how to tighten the thin wire of suspense like an old hand.
From the Publisher
“I once asked my wife who her favorite mystery author was and she said Archer Mayor… I’m not sure our marriage has recovered.”

—Craig Johnson, Author, Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for A&E’s hit drama “Longmire”

Meet the Author

Archer Mayor is the author of the highly acclaimed Vermont-based series featuring detective Joe Gunther, which the Chicago Tribune describes as “the best police procedurals being written in America.” He is a past winner of the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction—the first time a writer of crime literature has been so honored. In 2011, Mayor’s 22nd Joe Gunther novel, TAG MAN, earned a place on The New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction.

Before turning his hand to fiction, Mayor wrote history books, the most notable of which, Southern Timberman: The Legacy of William Buchanan, concerned the lumber and oil business in Louisiana from the 1870s to the 1970s. This book was published in 1988 and very well received; it was republished as a trade paperback in 2009.

Archer Mayor is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, the publisher of his own backlist, a travel writer for AAA, and he travels the Northeast giving speeches and conducting workshops. He has 25 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. Mayor was brought up in the US, Canada and France and had been employed as a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. In addition to writing novels and occasional articles, Mayor gives talks and workshops all around the country, including the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine.

Mayor’s critically-acclaimed series of police novels feature Lt. Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont, police department. The books, which have been appearing about once a year since 1988, have been published in five languages (if you count British), and routinely gather high praise from such sources as The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, and others, often appearing on their “ten best” yearly lists.

Whereas many writers base their books only on interviews and scholarly research, Mayor’s novels are based on actual experience in the field. The result adds a depth, detail and veracity to his characters and their tribulations that has led The New York Times to call him “the boss man on procedures”.

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Borderlines (Joe Gunther Series #2) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's official...I'm "hooked" on the Joe Gunther mystery series. While you can tell they were written some time ago (no cell phones or other technology) it's actually refreshing and makes for a better story. Very human characters and good stories. I recommend these, if you like a good cop who-dun-it!
ReddingNookTabletOwner More than 1 year ago
A friend lent us one of the later books to read and return to her. We are now hooked on the series. The author knows what he is talking about since he is a medical examiner and death investigator. I'm reading book #4 now and my wife is on book #2. Great buy on the Nook too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, just like Archer Mayor's first book. Joe Gunther is a very likeable character that seems genuinely real, with faults and good qualities. The other characters are well fleshed out and equally believable. The dialogue is also authentic, not stilted or too elaborate. In this series, I am reminded that ordinary people can have complex lives and personalities, making even a small, laid back community very interesting and potentially filled with drama. I plan to continue reading the Joe Gunther series in order with full confidence that the author will deliver an excellent story. BTW, I would love to find a man like Joe G. in my real life - he is that appealing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joe Gunther is a Vermont cop, but a very empathetic one, and Archer Mayor is an author well equipped to tell his stories, involving us to the extent that we too are Vermonters. I plan to read the whole series now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second of the Joe Gunther series that I have read, having started with #1. These books are very colorful, painting pictures of Vermont, its locales and weather. These books are exciting and keep my interest, and always keep me guessing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book is a little dated now, but is good as part of the intoduction to Joe Gunther.
eastman4 More than 1 year ago
This is the 3rd Mayor book I have read and I have enjoyed all 3
SherriSmith More than 1 year ago
I'm happy to be continuing the journey with Joe. I love him and his group of locals! Great descriptions and local character.
Justin_D More than 1 year ago
After reading the first book in the Joe Gunther series I wondered how well this setting could be used for a series of books. Much like the Jack Reacher series that I enjoy you begin to wonder about the believability of all thing happening to one person or in one town. The author has been good at shifting locations and adding to the cast of characters in a believable manner. I found this series to be a good and enjoyable read with plausible characters and story lines. I am on #6 now and have enjoyed them all to date.
omniverousreader More than 1 year ago
One of the great mystery writers. Good plots, move along, love the characters. Will read in one sitting. Joe Gunther, one of my favorite people in the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book. It's fast paced, action packed, the perfect mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. I kept trying to outguess the author's writing and failed every time!
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But what became of you know who? Some please tell.
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You are walking down the path when a large boulder loses its place and starts to fall right at the border patrol! (No one shall be killed here.)