About 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 Fictionthe 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”.
Read an Excerpt
Baker Street is just a block beyond one of Brattleboro’s more beaten paths — an overlooked extension west of an otherwise busy four-way intersection. The other three streets either lead downtown or to shortcuts to the south side. But Baker falls off a slight embankment, part of a closed loop bordering a large empty field near the Whetstone Brook — out of sight and largely out of mind.
The buildings along it run from decrepit to slightly better, in varying stages. The address Don Matthews had given me was a two-story apartment building, once a home, now cut into four small, dark sections, each one neglected, stagnant, but cheap. The windows were all covered with familiar brittle and tattered plastic wrap, once put up to help stop the freezing air from whistling through the gaps, but left to age through all four seasons, year after year, until its only remaining effectiveness was to proclaim the hopelessness of those barely sheltered behind it.
Willy and I had decided on a quiet approach, parking up the street and coming around the corner on foot. The weather was good — clear, sharp, and cold enough to make your nose hairs tingle — and I didn’t mind the chance, however oddly presented, to be outside and away from the stifling indoor heat most people found comforting during the winter.
We walked down the middle of the street. There was no traffic, and the sidewalks had been left to reemerge in the spring, typical of most of the town’s less stringently tidy neighborhoods.
“Anything we should know about Jorja Duval?” I asked Willy as the house loomed nearer.
“Nothing you couldn’t guess,” he said. “On welfare, on drugs, small history of dealing, tricking, and petty theft. Featured in a few domestics, according to Bratt PD, always as the punching bag. I knew her father back in the old days. Always figured he was banging her, although no charges were ever brought. He’s at St. Albans now on a manslaughter charge. Jorja had a brother, too, but he OD’d about five years ago.”
“How old is she?”
Willy hesitated. “Twenty-five? Maybe younger.”
We drew abreast of the house, took it in quickly with a practiced eye, and then struggled our way up a pathway that had been cleared in the Walter Skottick fashion — not at all.
The peeling front door sported four rusty mailboxes by its side, none of them labeled. There were also no doorbells. I raised an inquiring eye at Willy.
He pointed to the window above us and to the right. “That one,” He said softly, and twisted the doorknob.
The door swung back to reveal a gloomy, barefloored hallway with a set of stairs heading up. The odorous fog that crept out to envelope us was rancid and flavored with mildew and a smell of humanity reminiscent of an overripe diaper pail. Neither one of us reacted, since as working environments went, this was pretty standard fare.
We both paused for a moment, watching and listening, taking nothing for granted, knowing full well that inhabitants of such places were capable of anything.
Hearing nothing, we headed upstairs. There was an extra stillness to the cold air I didn’t like, though, and I could sense Willy felt the same way. He unbuttoned his coat, and removed his gun from its holster.
Walking on the balls of our feet to partially muffle our shoes and the squeaking of old floor boards, we moved to either side of Jorja Duval’s apartment door and paused once again, listening to nothing but our own breathing.
I finally reached out and rapped on the door, looking up and down the hallway as I did so for any movement from the other two apartments on the landing. “Jorja Duval? This is the police. Open up.”
The response was immediate, otherworldly, and psychologically chilling. From inside, we heard a single, high-pitched animal howl, followed by a series of thuds, crashes, and the sound of claws scrabbling across bare wood at high speed. It was as if my knock had unleashed some demonic pin ball that was now smacking off every wall and obstacle inside the apartment.
“What the hell?” I muttered, and grasped the door knob, twisting it slowly.
The door opened and a tabby cat flew out and froze for a split second at the sight of us, its hair on end, before shooting off like a rocket down the stairs. But not before I’d seen that all four of its paws were crusty with dried blood.
“Jesus,” Willy burst out, his hand tight on the gun.
Still recovering from the surprise, I chanced a fast glance around the corner, my own gun out as well. Pulling my head back, I described what I’d seen to Willy. “Short hall, two closed doors opposite each other. Big room beyond. All I could see there were two legs sticking into the middle of a big blood stain, and red paw prints all over the place.”
“We call for backup?” he asked.
I paused, thinking of the eerie stillness I’d noticed earlier. “No time. Ready on three?”
I held up three fingers, one at a time, and the two of us entered the small hallway as one, covering both the distant room and the two closed doors.
The precautions proved unnecessary. The place was empty except for the dead woman in the middle of the floor, lying face up, spread-eagle, with her throat cut wide. The room was dingy, dark, barely furnished, splotched with blood, and seemed far less comfortable than the average coffin.
“This Jorja Duval?” I asked Willy.
He holstered his weapon. “Was.”
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
“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”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
You cannot put this book down. I have read #1 through #12, I am hooked.