The Catch (Joe Gunther Series #19)
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The Catch (Joe Gunther Series #19)

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by Archer Mayor
     
 

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Joe Gunther, a policeman for most of his adult life, gets the call that every cop hates: 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, the killers appear to be a couple of

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Overview

Joe Gunther, a policeman for most of his adult life, gets the call that every cop hates: 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, the killers appear to be a couple of Boston-based drug runners.

Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation are brought in to identify the killers—and track them down up and down the northeast shoreline. Meanwhile, 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 dangerous collision course with Gunther's investigation…

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Superior…will leave fans feeling fully satisfied.” —Publishers Weekly

“Mayor's skills are equal to the vigor of his imagination, and we take his word for every twist, every turn, every thunderbolt.” —New Yorker

“Elegant, even lyrical prose...a new Joe Gunther is always good news.” —Booklist

“Suspenseful...Mayor's New England eye mercilessly details what he sees without the ‘calendar nostalgia' that usually clings to such villages and backwaters...The clever plot expands like a dark whirlpool and reveals the underbelly of Vermont and Maine.” —Providence Journal-Bulletin

“As with all Mayor's novels, the plot remains fresh and timely. Through his in-depth knowledge of police work, forensics and the medical field, combined with his ability to evoke the Vermont landscape, Mayor deftly brings the reader deep inside the story, taking us along the trail of meticulous detective work needed to bring out the truth.” —Brattleboro Reformer

Marilyn Stasio
Archer Mayor doesn't do quaint. He might use poetic imagery to describe the austere beauty of New England's rugged mountains and snowbound villages, but as far as their crime content is concerned, his police procedurals are about as authentic as it gets.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312365158
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/01/2009
Series:
Joe Gunther Series, #19
Pages:
285
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

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."

"Ten-Four, Fifty-one."

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.

"Dispatch."

"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.

Excerpted from The Catch by Archer Mayor.

Copyright 2008 by Archer Mayor.

Published in September 2009 by St. Martin's Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Meet the Author

Archer Mayor, in addition to being a novelist, is also a death investigator for Vermont's Chief Medical Examiner, a deputy for the Windham County Sheriff's Department, and has served twenty-five years experience as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. The winner of the NEIBA award for Best Fiction, he lives in Newfane, Vermont.

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