Presumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor is the latest installment of Joe Gunther and his special crimes unit in Vermont. The special unit is a unique collection of characters. Joe has finally made his relationship with Beverly Hillstrom, the ME public and it is hot, the gloves and the masks come off; Deputy Lester Spinney’s son, David, is now a cop allowing each to become more close with the other; and Willy Kunkle, a former NYC cop now in VT has settled down and has begun a family with his fellow cop, Sam. He brings his own unique brand of oddness and ways to the group with his observations and behavior. His most bizarre behavior is that he has hired Dan Kravitz to circumvent the law by having Dan break into houses to find information and evidence when procedure is too cumbersome. Dan Kravitz brings his local craziness to the story. It is of course his actions that upset the whole applecart, otherwise why have them in the story? They even so far as to mock television cop shows when it comes to the speed of DNA results and other time consuming practices, like getting a search warrant. It adds to the tension and cowboyness of Willy from NYC. There is more humanity in this new addition to the Joe Gunther series.
This is a mystery that demonstrates how the past can come back to bite you in the ass, especially when everything from the past was done in the wrong way. Old gangsters have gone into another direction of seeming legitimacy, like the Kennedys and Rockefellers only to be dragged back to the sewer from which they came.
The body of Hank Mitchell has been found in cement poured forty years ago when the Yankee nuclear plant was built. He was killed and dumped at the pour out of convenience forty years ago. He was eliminated because he wanted to do the right thing and was in the way. This event during the deconstruction of said now defunct plant has opened old wounds and has made the discovery of his body an inconvenience to some. A group of people now in their sixties has had their lives upset with more murder. Incompetence has been renewed after forty years. These old guys mess it up thinking they still have it, but don’t. It is a clash of generations as always.
There are a number of familial themes examined in this tale. David Spinney is dragged into it, which provides his father some good teachable moments. In another part of the story, Dan Kravitz has involved his daughter, Sally, in his bizarre schemes. Here, too, there is an important realization about dad. Hank Mitchell’s family has some real important moments as they discovered that their dad was murdered and didn’t just run away, as many believed. This changes a lot of things for all of them. Even our curmudgeon, Willy shows signs of humanity as he takes extra precautions to safe guard his own child from what he thinks may be danger, causing his wife to see the sweeter side of him, which he reminds her is not real, but is. These glimpses into familial relationship add perfect humanity.
Comic relief comes from the exchanges between Joe and his NH counterpart, as they have to collaborate a bit in the case. Joe crosses the Connecticut River into NH, “Live, Freeze, or Die,” only to be insulted by his NH counterpart about the socialistic state of Vermont. Their exchanges are hilarious. It assures us that cops do have a sense of humor.
This is more than just another mystery; it is a tale about family, love, trust, and collegiality with murder in the background. This is a great series and I look forward to the next thriller.