The New York Times
The Catch (Joe Gunther Series #19)by Archer Mayor, Christopher Graybill
"Joe Gunther, a policeman for most of his adult life, gets the call that every cop hates and every law enforcement friend and family member fears - a fellow officer has been killed in the line of duty. During what appears to have been a routine traffic stop on a dark country Vermont road, a deputy sheriff was shot to death. From what can be seen on the cruiser's video… See more details below
"Joe Gunther, a policeman for most of his adult life, gets the call that every cop hates and every law enforcement friend and family member fears - a fellow officer has been killed in the line of duty. During what appears to have been a routine traffic stop on a dark country Vermont road, a deputy sheriff was shot to death. From what can be seen on the cruiser's video recorder, it is believed that the killers were a couple of Boston-based drug runners pulled over by the deputy on their way from Canada to Boston." "Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team are brought in not only to identify the kiIlers, but to track them down, regardless of where they've run - all the way from Boston to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to the coast of Maine." Meanwhile, along that very same shoreline, Alan Budney, the disaffected son of a Maine lobsterman, is a man with big ambitions - to usurp and replace the state's primary drug kingpin, a plan that will inevitably place him on a collision course with Gunther's investigation. In a case that leads him into unfamiliar territory, Gunther finds himself facing some utterly ruthless players in a lethally dangerous game.
The New York Times
At the start of Mayor's fine 19th Joe Gunther novel (after 2007's Chat), Vermont deputy sheriff Brian Sleuter gets shot in the temple while making a routine traffic stop near the Canadian border. The video camera on Sleuter's cruiser taped the murder, so it appears to be a simple case, but Mayor never makes things simple. Since the pair that Sleuter stopped have a drug history, Joe Gunther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, coordinates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston. In a smash-bang arrest attempt, one suspect is killed, the other escapes. Joe follows him to Maine, where a drug distributor was recently murdered, drawing Joe and his staff into a fight for control of the New England drug trade and a vengeful family feud. The plot meanders and relies on coincidence more than usual in this superior regional series, but a surprise resolution to the cop killing and an unexpected final "catch," one of many in the story, will leave fans feeling fully satisfied. 30-city author tour. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The killing of a deputy sheriff in Vermont leads to the death of a big-time drug dealer in Maine. When a joint task force including the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sends local, state, and federal agents to investigate, the complicated trail leads VBI head Joe Gunther to information that he would rather not have discovered. Like the previous books in the series, Mayor's 19th crime novel offers an interesting tale with a suspenseful denouement. For most mystery collections. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ6/1/08.]
Jo Ann Vicarel
Read an Excerpt
A Joe Gunther Novel
By Archer Mayor
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Archer Mayor
All rights reserved.
Deputy Sheriff Brian Sleuter was looking for a better country/western station when the Toyota flew by, spraying a few roadside pebbles against the front bumper of his cruiser.
"Jesus Christ, Bud," he said softly, turning on his headlights, putting the car into gear, and hitting his blue lights — all in a single, well-practiced gesture — "why don't you flip me the bird while you're at it?"
He fishtailed into the road from his hiding place, his rear tires spinning before gaining purchase, and took off down Vermont Route 7 with a burst from the Impala's built-up engine, the Toyota's rear lights already fading fast into the late-night summer darkness. This stretch of road — straight, isolated, and well paved — was a magnet for speeders.
It was long after midnight, and Sleuter had been waiting patiently for just such an opportunity. In the split second that his well-trained eye had glimpsed the interior of the car, illuminated only by its own dash lights, he'd caught sight of two people, both young males. That, combined with the Toyota being older, dark-colored, and nondescript in appearance — and that it was headed south from the direction of Burlington and possibly Canada — helped him think he might be about to tag his first drug runner in five weeks.
That had been way too long for a certifiable, self-admitted Type-A personality like Brian Sleuter. He saw himself as a man on the make, and the faster that he created a name for himself, the sooner he could move up to some outfit like ATF or DEA where he could really throw the book at the bad guys.
The Toyota grew in size before him as he pushed the accelerator to the floor. Official police denials notwithstanding, high-speed rundowns had their thrills. The engine's unleashed roar, the sudden blurring of scenery on both sides, pulsing to the strobe bar's steady beat, heightened the defiant, indomitable sense of superiority that washed through Sleuter every time he put on his uniform. He'd been told that wasn't a good thing — that it ran counter to the whole professional, courteous, protect-and-serve bullshit the boss spouted at monthly trainings — but he knew what he knew, which was that a gun and a badge made for a good argument in a fight, and that he had no interest in being a social worker.
Call him a jackass if you had front teeth to spare, but at least he was no loser.
The Toyota began slowing down, pulling over to the side of the narrow road. Ahead of them both, a pair of headlights crested a distant hill, aiming their way. Sleuter instinctively charted their progress, as he was simultaneously watching for any suspicious activity from the Toyota, but all the on-comer did was slow as they always did upon sight of the blue lights, before sliding by timidly as Sleuter angled his cruiser to a stop behind his quarry.
He hit the spotlight switch by his left window, freezing the car before him in a blinding halo, and removed the radio mike from its cradle.
"Fifty-one — Dispatch."
"Fifty-one. This is Dispatch."
"I'm Seventy-five Massachusetts passenger Romeo Foxtrot Zulu, Three Eight One, a mile or two north of the Route 17 crossroad on Route 7."
At least Dispatch was on the ball, Sleuter thought as he opened his door, not shooting the shit with someone or taking a leak, as usual. He glanced at the camera screen glowing high and near the center of his windshield, to make sure the icon representing his body recorder was on. He wasn't a huge believer in high-tech gadgets — he hated computers, for example — but he'd won more than one case in court because of voice and image recordings.
He emerged from his car and paused, studying what he could see of the two men caught in the harsh glare. Unfortunately, that only amounted to the backs of their heads. He needed to know what their hands were doing.
He circled around to the rear of the cruiser, keeping out of his own lights, and closed in on the Toyota from its right side, thereby avoiding being seen in the driver's outside left mirror — the place most operators checked to monitor an officer's approach.
When he came even with the car's right-rear bumper, knowing he'd entered the cruiser's camera frame, Sleuter did one more thing out of long habit: he reached out with his left hand and pressed it against the metal of the vehicle. This strict official protocol, a gesture born of painful past experience, reflected how many times cops had been shot and/or killed during a stop, and their evidentiary fingerprints later found on the suspect's car.
Each time Sleuter touched a vehicle this way, he did so consciously, as aware of the bet he was hedging as when he donned his ballistic vest before every shift.
He stopped again to scrutinize what he could see of the interior of the car, and to add to the discomfort of its occupants. He also glanced around quickly. There weren't any trees along this stretch — it was open, rolling countryside, cupped between the Green Mountains to the east, and the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain to the west. At night, that made it overwhelmingly black and vast and helped make Brian Sleuter feel like the most exposed object for miles around.
Returning to the task at hand, and secure that he'd seen no obvious signs of danger from inside the passenger area, like the glint of a gun or a suspicious posture or movement, he turned on his small, powerful handlight and shined it directly into the car, starting with its rear seat.
Again, he saw nothing untoward.
Both heads swiveled in his direction as he walked up to the passenger window and tapped on it with his light, standing even with the back door to make of himself a harder target. The window whirred down.
"Hey, there, officer," the driver spoke across the chest of his companion, who merely stared ahead after the briefest glimpse in Sleuter's direction — an immobility Brian found telling.
"Evening," he answered. "I'd like to see your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance."
The driver, a young man with a mustache and a silver post twinkling in the nest of his left eyebrow, smiled and nodded. "Sure thing, officer." He reached over and opened the glove box before the Sphinx-like passenger.
Sleuter followed the man's hand with his flashlight beam and watched it fish among an assortment of documents and food wrappers, eventually finding a wrinkled envelope and pulling it out. The driver extracted the requested paperwork and handed it over.
Sleuter glanced at the Massachusetts license he held in his left hand, having wedged his light under his left armpit — thereby keeping his gun hand free at all times. "This your current address, Mr. Marano?"
"Nah. I moved. The right one's on the registration. I'm still getting the license changed."
Sleuter nudged the passenger on the shoulder. "How 'bout you? You got any identification?"
The passenger finally looked up at him fully, his expression tense. "I didn't do nuthin'."
"Didn't say you did. Got any identification?"
The man hesitated. He, too, was young, like the driver, but sported a goatee and no piercings that Sleuter could see. He did, however, have the edge of a tattoo poking just over the top of his T-shirt. It looked like part of a snake. He was also sweating, which Sleuter found noteworthy. It was summer, fair enough, but that didn't have the same meaning up here as it did farther south — the nights generally ran cool, just like now.
"Sure. No problem," the man said and reached for his back pocket, lifting himself off the seat in the process.
Sleuter stepped back, watching them carefully. Every nerve in his body told him he had something cooking here, people with criminal records at least, and probably more.
He took the other man's driver's license when it was handed to him and repeated his earlier question: "You still at this address, Mr. —" he paused to read, "Grega?"
"Sure," Grega answered, once more looking straight ahead.
Sleuter paused a moment, considering his approach. What he was hoping for was a consent search. What he knew he should request was backup. But he was reluctant to pursue that. If this panned out the way he was hoping, he didn't want to share the credit.
"What happens when I run you two through the computer?" he asked. "I gonna find anything?"
"Not me, officer," Marano said with his quick smile. "You can check all you want."
"Yeah," Grega answered more ambivalently. "Check all you want."
Sleuter nodded, mostly to himself. Those were pretty standard responses. And didn't mean much. People either thought that out-of-state records didn't cross the border, or that Vermont cops were too dumb to even operate a computer. Or both.
"Okay," he told them. "Stay put. I'll be right back."
"Take your time, officer," said Marano, his courtesy tinged with contempt.
Sleuter backed away, keeping his eye on the car as he went, not fully turning away until he felt he was safe. As before, he circled the rear of his cruiser to regain his seat, still not wanting to give his suspects the slightest flash of his silhouette.
"Fifty-one — Dispatch," he radioed after closing his door behind him.
"You have a twenty-eight? Twenty-seven, RO."
Dispatch gave him the registration first, as requested. "Massachusetts passenger Romeo Foxtrot Zulu, Three Eight One, is a 2004, two-door Toyota Solara, color black, registered to James Marano and valid until 2009." She gave him the address in Boston, on Dorchester Avenue — nicknamed "Dot Ave" among cops, and infamous as a drug and gang hotbed. It matched what appeared on Marano's registration.
"The twenty-seven," she continued in the same flat voice, referring to the registered owner's — or "RO's" — operator's license, "is valid in Massachusetts. No priors in Vermont."
That was the first layer, and usually the most useless. Sleuter opened his mouth to ask her to dig deeper when he simultaneously noticed two things that made him abruptly straighten in his seat — the passenger in the Toyota was no longer visible, and there was a sudden movement to his left.
But that was all. The bullet entering his temple put an end to everything else.CHAPTER 2
Matthew J. Mroz left the restaurant where he'd enjoyed dinner, stepped out into Rockland's Main Street, and took in a deep lungful of warm evening air. His last name rhymed with "morose," not inappropriately given his profession, but it had been chopped down to Roz by his associates, who were prone to catchy monikers.
Mroz was a drug dealer — successful, ambitious, ruthless, and careful. Originally from Portland, Maine — the state's largest city — he'd migrated down the coast to Rockland several years ago, recognizing the crowded nature of his birth town's illegal marketplace, and also that the products being sold there — largely the cocaine and heroin so trendy in the states just south of them — were overlooking a far hungrier clientele.
Early on, Matthew Mroz had come to understand that, on a per capita basis at least, Maine had one of the largest prescription drug abuse problems in the country.
In his eyes, the least he could do was to serve a pressing social need. In so doing, he'd become wealthy, influential, and popular — at least in specialized circles. He'd also become a source of keen interest to competitors and the police, which helped explain the presence by his side of a bald, muscular, unpleasant-looking man named Harold, who at the moment was checking up and down the street through squinted eyes.
Harold had more than enough to scrutinize. Rockland was a large town — a ferry boat port servicing several Penobscot Bay islands; the primary urban hub for a cluster of nearby communities like Camden and Rockport, whose genteel configurations shied away from some of Rockland's more practical, grittier offerings; and the host of some small but locally significant industrial enterprises like a harborside petroleum storage facility, a marina, and a large quarrying operation.
More to Roz's interest, however, was that Rockland was also a magnet for touristy transients — complete with recreational appetites.
"Where to?" Harold asked, content for the moment that no black helicopters were hovering overhead, and no people like him hiding among the throng of summer visitors.
"The Oh-So-High, moron," Mroz said simply, invoking his nickname for one of the motels where he routinely conducted business.
Harold nodded silently, having already guessed the destination and being used to the abuse. He'd been working for Roz for three years by now and had established a rhythm of what he chose to hear and what he didn't. He let his boss pass before him, so he could guard his back while watching ahead — what he considered good protective behavior, even though he was shy any professional training.
He could handle himself — had on numerous occasions. But Harold was a realist, and knew he was more thug than bodyguard. On the other hand, that's how Roz used him — as a two-legged pit bull. He just would have preferred not being spoken to as such.
Which wasn't to say that his patience was unlimited.
They proceeded down the street between the phalanx of red-brick buildings reflecting downtown's muscular commercial past. Rockland had been a minor powerhouse once, much more than it was now, even in these tourist-driven times. No Portland, of course, but still a significant influence in Maine's development. Now, erstwhile businesses from fishing concerns to boat building to shipping and the like had been replaced by boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and gift shops.
Matt Mroz's Oh-So-High motel wasn't of that ilk. Less flashy than its waterfront counterparts, it was set back, down a side street, and sported a straightforward, pragmatic demeanor — parking lot, two rows of stacked rooms girdled by a running balcony. No gym, no pool, no in-room movies, or "Magic Finger" beds. Just the basics. It was, to be fair, not the first stop for travelers hungry for salt air and enchanting views. Commercial drivers used the place for its intended purpose, others for its discretion and anonymity.
"Same room?" Harold asked as they left the sidewalk and entered the parking lot bordered on three sides by the motel's monotonous door-and-window facade.
Mroz eyed him sorrowfully over his shoulder. "Jesus, Harold. That's the whole point."
Harold had his doubts. It seemed to him that conducting business from the same location every time might be exactly the wrong thing to do if you didn't want to be surprised. But that was Roz's hang-up — "Safety in familiarity," he'd said, or something like that. Harold always figured it was because Roz had been kicked around as a kid or something. In any case, it made life a lot easier for Harold — not only did it mean fewer places to check out in advance, but in this instance, it meant that Harold could set things up just as he wanted.
They climbed the exterior metal staircase to the second-floor balcony and proceeded to a room located at the very far end — one that Mroz kept rented on a near permanent basis.
Harold removed the key from his pocket and slid it into the lock as Mroz stepped back to lean against the railing.
"Be right back," Harold told him, as always, before slipping inside to check the place for safety.
Mroz nodded comfortably and turned to gaze out over the parking lot — the only available view. The light was fading, the clouds were a salmon pink from the setting sun, and the heat of the day had dropped just enough to imbue the air with a soft warmth usually associated with picnics and strolls in the park. Life was pretty good.
Harold stuck his head out the door. "All clear."
Mroz left his perch and passed into the familiar room, virtually a home away from home, given the volume of business he did here, especially at this time of year.
It wasn't anything grand, of course — the usual assortment of cheap furniture, bad artwork, and poorly addressed rug stains. But it gave Mroz a sense of comfort and stability, and considering some of the places he'd been, it was even a step up.
Harold was at the window, peering out. "He's coming."
Mroz was sitting on the edge of the bed. "Don't know what I'd do without you, Harold."
Harold ignored him. The man approaching the motel was a regular, in his thirties with thinning blond hair and a nervous manner, who kept justifying his visits by referring to various ailments.
A couple of minutes later, there was a timid knock on the door. As always, Harold opened up, keeping the customer outside while he checked around. He then motioned the man inside without a word, his tough-guy demeanor firmly in place.
Mroz was still sitting on the bed. "George. How're you doin'?"
"Not too good, Roz," their visitor said. "Back pain's been acting up."
Mroz laughed. "I don't give a rat's ass, George. Don't you get that? How much do you want this time?"
Excerpted from The Catch by Archer Mayor. Copyright © 2008 Archer Mayor. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Recently Archer Mayor was a very informative guest on a Sunday night chat hosted at The Writer's Chatroom. Along with learning that his previous publisher had put the first twelve Joe Gunther series books out of print so Mr. Mayor had to form his own publishing company to get them back out on the market, I learned that that I hadn't read this one when it came out last year. A number of other readers were on hold for it at the local library, so it took awhile before finally arriving. As always, it was worth wait. Deputy Sheriff Brian Sleuter pulls over a speeding car on an isolated stretch of Vermont road cognizant of the always present danger from such a stop. Despite taking the usual precautions and following procedure, within minutes, he is gunned down while sitting inside his patrol car. Called into investigate the murder and apprehend the person or persons responsible, Joe Gunther and the fellow members of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation have a solid lead. Thanks to the dash camera footage, they can see the moments prior to the officer's shocking death. Over in Maine, Alan Brudey is the son of a Maine Lobsterman who has no desire to follow in dear old Dad's footsteps. Having just killed Mathew Mroz in a plan to take control of the local drug flow he has no intention of working the water chasing the dwindling supply of lobsters. He plans to work the people instead who need drugs and supply them and build a business in the time honored way of all small businessmen. The product is different, but the business process is the same and he has plans for exponential growth. Before long both storylines merge as Joe Gunther's hunt for the killer and his accomplice take the team to Maine. In a story that constantly shifts back and forth between storylines, there is little time for character development and instead is all about the chase of the suspects. This deep in the series, one doesn't expect any character development and one doesn't get any. One does expect more complexity in terms of plot and character interaction in an Archer mayor novel and unfortunately that also is not contained here. This is a straight up fast moving mystery where you know Joe Gunther and his group will catch the bad guys. The only question is how and where. The result, while certainly not his best ever in the series, is another strong one. While it dims in comparison to many of his other novels, it certainly is much better than a lot of books out there by other authors who get much more of the media attention. Kevin R. Tipple © 2009
Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) Joe Gunther receives the call that he loathes hearing a cop was killed in the line of duty. Apparently on a dark rustic road, deputy sheriff Brian Sleuter was making a routine traffic stop when he was killed. The tape of the incident captured by his cruiser shows two Boston drug runners on their way south from Canada. --- Gunther and his VBI team in conjunction with US Immigration authorities take charge of the cop murder because of the major drug running connection. His target is the son of a lobsterman, Alan Budney. With the lobster industry in disarray, he has been able to use their anger to run drugs. Now a cop murder is added to his gang¿s accomplishments. --- Filled with excellent twists and red herrings (make that red lobsters), the latest Gunther regional police procedural is a superb entry in a strong New England series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Joe receives the call all cops fear and never slows down even as the plot meanders more than the Winooski River. THE CATCH is another winning Joe Gunther VBI investigation. --- Harriet Klausner
Archer Mayor writes the best detective novels with all the details that take part in a police organization. Most of his novels are based in Vermont an unusual scene for detective novels. This one takes us to the coast of New England. Great reading!
Archer Mayor delivers again in THE CATCH. Strong characters, good story lines and a look at Vermont through the eyes of a savy police detective are what you can count on in Mayor's Joe Gunther series. Well worth the read and highly recommended.
I was not disappointed with Archer Mayor latest book.
Great book, loved the new comical detective Cathy Lawless, I get "the catch" and I loved "the cliffhanger" at the end. Very clever as usual, Archer Mayor!