Proof Positive: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)
Proof Positive is Archer Mayor’s 25th novel (Three Can Keep A Secret). Mayor uses his expertise as Vermont’s medical examiner to paint effective pictures of good guys and bad guys and the setting in which they take place (i.e., Vermont).
The opening line of the novel is excellent: “It was the time of year when New England wobbles between fall and winter, as prone to Indian summer as to sudden, short-lived snowstorms.” The story is enticing from the start. The introductory pages are arguably the greatest strength of the book. Some of the writing that follows is less consistent (“Neil’s body collapses like a dropped sack of laundry,” p. 213, comes to mind).
Ben Kindall is a Vietnam vet and a hoarder, which is significant because it provides for the circumstances that mask the real causes of his death. Ben’s cousin, medical examiner Beverly Hillstrom, alerts Vermont Bureau of Investigator and her flame, Joe Gunther, of Ben’s death. The mystery of missing negatives uncovers a trail of dead bodies and a list of potential targets. The suspense builds as a senator and hit men are discovered to be involved.
As is common in many crime novels, dialogue is the convention of choice, and the degree to which this is effective depends on the reader’s preference.
Fans of the series will be happy to know that immediately upon the conclusion of Proof Positive comes the first two chapters of novel 26, The Company She Kept, meaning that the next Joe Gunther fix is just around the corner.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “…a smoothly plotted and absorbing mystery.” Publishers Weekly “The best thing going!” Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.