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Tucker Peak: A Joe Gunther Mystery    by Archer Mayor order for
Tucker Peak
by Archer Mayor
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Joe Gunther is an eminently rational officer of the law, and Mayor's police procedurals about this Vermont detective are a pleasure to read; Tucker Peak is the twelfth book in the series. The book opens as Gunther's carpentry week-end is interrupted by Sheriff Snuffy Dawson, looking for some help from the new Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) to deal with larceny at the ski resort of Tucker Peak. A luxury condo has been burgled and a twenty thousand dollar watch stolen.

Gunther and gang (the prickly one-armed Willy Kunkle; tough, intense Sammie Martens; and quietly competent Lester Spinney) start digging and soon uncover murder and a link to an insider at the resort. This leads to an undercover adventure for Joe, using his carpentry skills in maintenance, and Sammie, posing as a ski instructor at 'this isolated, small, vertically challenged ski bowl.' Cluttering the scene are a P.I. on his own fraud investigation, and a bunch of environmental protesters, the Tucker Protection League, whose leader is a friend of Joe's life partner, Gail Zigman.

I especially enjoyed this episode in Gunther's career for its insights into his relationship with Gail, and to see the difficulties in the development of the low-key romance ('as likely as a bird courting a bullfrog') between Willy and Sammie, both great characters in their own right. Mayor typically keeps a slow and steady tension to his tale as it develops to a logical conclusion, but this time he also threw in a strong dose of action, starring Joe in an act of heroism, and pitting him up close and personal against the villains.

As ski season approaches, I was fascinated to read about this fictional resort, its infrastructure and its operational challenges. The environmental undercurrents to the story also add substance, as in Joe's ruminations ... 'I knew that we humans were wholly capable of burning, polluting, stripping, and altering the landscape to a lethal extent ... I trusted that the winner in this struggle would be the same force that had preceded us in history, and which would, in the long run, treat us as a minor blip in time.'

Tucker Peak is only the second Joe Gunther adventure that I've read but I will be looking for more. Snuggle down and enjoy this very satisfying Vermont mystery on a cold winter's night; you won't be disappointed.

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