Cover Image: Fall Guy

Fall Guy

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law-enforcement, murder, murder-investigation, theft, Vermont, procedural, jurisdiction, cold-case, internet-crimes, crime-fiction, mystery, New-Hampshire, Boston*****

What a convoluted and challenging mess this case turns out to be. Like a Hydra it keeps on creating new horrors as the head is cut off of each. The regular characters are great, the villains truly evil, and then there are the clueless. Then there is the inherent madness of two states worth of police plus our old frenemies, the FBI!
Another great read that kept me awake and reading far too late into the night!
I requested and received an advance reader e-book from St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Joe Gunther thinks this is a straight forward case of a stolen car...with a dead burglar in the trunk. The first twist - the car was stolen in New Hampshire and it's. now in Vermont. In short order they discover stolen goods and some cell phones. Then the story really gets complicated. One of the phones ties back to a cold case of a missing boy and another contains child porn. That's a lot for Joe and his team to untangle but untangle it they do and it makes for a very enjoyable read. As are all of the books in the Joe Gunther series. Every one has a great recurring cast and a well developed puzzle to solve. 
My thanks to the publisher Minotaur and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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The four loved characters that make up the Vermont Bureau of Investigation led by Joe Gunther are back in a twisty thriller by Archer Mayor.  

A stolen car is found in Vermont with a dead body in the trunk. Also in the trunk  there are items that were stolen in burglaries, along with stolen cell phones that lead to an unsolved child abduction case from long ago and pedophilia.  It seems that the murder was committed in New Hampshire which brings state jurisdictions into play. There are so many twists and turns to this story that are too numerous to mention.  Suffice it to say, the states cooperate with each other and bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
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Fans of this series (I'm one) know that nothing is ever what it first seems to be and that's true in this installment- which would be great as a standalone- as well.  When the body of a thief is found in the trunk of a stolen Mercedes- along with a lot of stolen items- Joe Gunther and his team of Willy, Lester, and Sammy are called out.  It's interesting enough but then the cell phones they fund turn up child porn and, most intriguing of all, one of them turns out to have belonged to a boy who disappeared without a trace years ago.  Who was Don Kalfus and who beat him to death?  Well, this winds through the lower levels of Vermont with some terrific (if low life) characters.  Kalfus is only the first murder and it takes the savvy skills of Beverly to pinpoint what likely happened to another (no spoilers) victim.  This twists, turns, and is quite surprising (although I wasn't surprised that it as, well, surprising).  Thanks to Netgalley for the ArC.  Great read.
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I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Archer Mayor is at it again. This is the latest in the Joe Gunther series, but you can read it as a standalone. 

Joe and the team are pulled into an investigation that crosses into New Hampshire and puts them on a federal taskforce: a body is found in the trunk of a stolen truck with other stolen goods, including the phone of a teen who had gone missing years earlier. There were a lot of characters and a lot of things going on in this book, but it worked for the story.

CW: this book contains mention of child porn and sex trafficking
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Fall Guy is Book #33 in Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series. In this novel, Joe and his team are tasked with investigating and solving several cases — three murders, a case of child trafficking, and a cold missing persons case. All of these cases stem from finding a body beaten to death in the trunk of a stolen car.

While I did enjoy Mayor’s previous novels, I found Fall Guy to be a tedious read. For one, there were close to a dozen acronyms. ICAC, TFO, MOD (not COD,) RAC, etc. You get the picture… I was constantly referring back to my notes to refresh my memory of what each meant. Not a fun way to read a novel. Then there was the issue of the number of characters, which was close to over a dozen. Granted, there was the core group of Joe and his team. But with a whoddunit novel, all the characters matter. So rather than an enjoyable fiction, Fall Guy became an exercise in notetaking.

The plot was like a wagon wheel that contained numerous spokes emanting from the hub. Maybe the intention was to create plot twists, but the execution of it didn’t quite meet the mark.

Fall Guy was a disappointing read for me. Unlike Mayor’s other novels, it fell short of likable. But because I managed to finish it despite all the hurdles, I’ll give it two okay stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
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Joe Gunther is the Field Commander of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. Joe and his team expertly pull each layer of the story back, often leaving more questions then answers.  As each person is questioned we find that we are getting more lies then truths and the tactics used to get to the truth felt realistic and intentional.  Joe clearly is an expert in his field and I liked that he is in control of the situation from the start.  The book has a slow reveal with lots of information needed to see the full picture of the crime.  I feel like this is an excellent police procedural with lots of spinning plates.
The story, which takes place in the New England states of Vermont and New Hampshire, paints a nice picture of the area.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the advanced copy.  This is my honest review.
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Fall Guy – Archer Mayor

(blog will publish 9/24)

It’s a chilly winter’s day when Joe Gunther, Field Commander of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, is summoned to a scene. A vehicle, reported stolen several days ago from New Hampshire, has been found – with a dead body stuffed inside the trunk. In the vehicle itself is a bunch of junk – low end items invariably stolen from a multitude of places. Of the six phones removed from the vehicle, one is quickly found to have child pornography.  Another, inextricably, links to a missing persons case from several years ago – one that was never solved. 

As Joe and his team document the scene, Beverly Hillstrom, the Chief Medical Examiner and Joe’s significant other, arrives on scene to collect the body. A quick on scene examination reveals a blow to the head as a likely source of death.  A quick identification is made via a biometric scanner, complete with rap sheet and next of kin. The phones and random property appear to belong to various individuals, with each individual item needing follow up, as they look for a relationship, if any, to the vehicle owner – or the deceased. 

 A task force is formed with all the usual players we’ve come to know and love; the team splitting up to start unraveling the clues they’ve discovered, including the rescue of a young child from exploitation. Attempts to re-create the last week of travel via the stolen vehicle’s GPS reveal a multitude of stops, seemingly random, but all must be visited – with every destination seemingly provoking more questions than answers.  Joe and his team must pull out all the stops to get to the bottom of this one – and do so with a very unexpected and a bit abrupt, but very satisfying ending! 

As a former New Englander, I love the rich storytelling Archer Mayor provides, in his detailed and colorful descriptions of the Vermont/New Hampshire area.  I can easily visualize the towns and geography he describes, making me more than a bit homesick for those days of my youth!  I adore the Joe Gunther character and his merry group of investigators, and I know with each book release that I need to settle in for a nice long uninterrupted read. This one was no exception! Another great read from one of the greats!! 

Available 9/27 from all of your favorite booksellers! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an objective review. Do you love to read?? Visit and start reviewing books today!!
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A report is made to Joe that a car that was stolen was found but a dead body was found in the trunk. The car had been stolen from in front of a strip joint while the owner was inside, he had no idea of how the body got in the trunk or who he was.

Thereafter the story unfolds like peeling an avocado.  Every time they find a piece of evidence, it only leads to more questions.  As they answer those questions, more questions pop-up and sometimes is counter to previous evidence.  There seems to be a spiral of evidence that just keeps the true answers 
just out of reach.  

As always Mayor does a great job at feeding information to us, dribs and drabs at a time.  Even after 33 books he still knows how to write good mystery.
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Every year, I anticipate the latest Archer Mayor book.  His Joe Gunther series is a how-to for police procedurals.  He has created a wonderful cast of characters who feel like old friends, with this the 33rd in the series.  Yet he always provides enough background that a reader could pick this up as a stand-alone.  
The story starts with the discovery of a dead body in the trunk of a stolen car.  The body belongs to Don Kalfus, a minor thief.  The car also contains a mobile phone with pictures of child porn and another ancient cell phone with links to an old, cold child abduction case. The multiple finds have the team crossing back and forth between Vermont and New Hampshire and running hither and yon.  There are so many moving parts to this, you have to really pay attention.  It kept me totally engaged trying to see how they would weave together and be resolved.  And boy, was that ending intense and convoluted.  
One of the reasons that Mayor stands out is his writing.  His descriptions are spot on. Not your typical police procedural.   
My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.
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In this 33rd (!) installment in this series, Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) team investigate a crime which begins with the discovery of a dead body in the trunk of a stolen Mercedes.  There are other crimes that come into play with the discovery of kiddie porn on a phone in the car, as well as the old phone belonging to a kid that went missing several years earlier.  In addition to several crimes there are several villains.   This is a complex, well-written police procedural with well-written characters and a descriptive setting in Vermont/New Hampshire.
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It's a common trope in police procedurals: committed cops are stymied by a terrible boss. But not in this series, which has developed an ensemble cast of detectives who work well together under the caring and smart leadership of an excellent manager. Seriously, a whole management book could be written based on the decisions Joe Gunther makes again and again to keep his diverse team working at its best. 

In this case, a series of seemingly unrelated crimes surface when a body is found in the trunk of a stolen car. Why is the owner of the stolen car so dodgy? How did a phone belonging to a boy who went missing years ago end up in the car thief's possession? The more they dig, the more questions they have. 

It's a busy plot with lots of angles to investigate but, as usual, Mayor keeps all the plates spinning while also taking readers on an insiders tour of Vermont and New Hampshire. The denouement is a doozy.
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I have never read a Joe Gunther story before.  Author Archer Mayor made it easy to read this as a stand alone.  The depth of each character and their relationships is intriguing enough that I will search out earlier novels.

There are a LOT of characters in this 'who-done-it' and anyone could easily be the murderer.

Only in the final chapter does it all wrap up when Joe confronts the murderer and hears their confession.
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Archer Mayor strikes again with another fabulous Joe Gunther novel. What truly sets this series apart is the verisimilitude. Mayor, himself a lawman, peppers his stories with real world details. The characters ring true. The beats in the story ring true. Add in deliciously complex plots and you have a winner. I would follow Joe Gunther wherever he led. This story starts simply enough with a man found dead in the trunk of a stolen Mercedes. But then it veers into that deliciously labyrinthine territory previously mentioned. Stolen items found in the car, many of them, including a flip phone, clearly from another time. An eccentric old rich couple. Wretched mothers. Slippery girlfriends. Abused children. The full gamut. Excellent and highly recommended.
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Who, exactly, is the protagonist in this story?  Is it Detective Joe Gunther, the field force commander for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI)?  Is it Samantha, the mother of Emma, and also a police officer in Vermont?  It almost seems to be Willy Kunkle father of Emma and mate of Samantha.  Perhaps it is Lester.  Or maybe Fred.  He’s in New Hampshire, but the author solved that problem by having all of these cops be a part of a federal task force to investigate kiddie porn.  

To me, it seemed as though former military sniper Willie Kunkle is the primary figure in this story, but it isn’t easy to be sure because the author shifts focus from one member of the investigative team to another with amazing frequency. Good luck keeping track of everybody.

In addition to having multiple cops, we also learn that there are multiple villains.  At least one of them is dead.  His lifeless body has been found in the trunk of a stolen Mercedes, and that event kicks off the story.  

One of the supposed villains is Lemuel Shaw, owner of the Mercedes and very wealthy businessman.  Another is the dead man’s mother, and another is his girlfriend.  But wait, the dead man had a buddy who used to join him in his nighttime sojourns to burgle local homes.  Did he murder his buddy?  

Just to further complicate the plot, the cell phone of a missing child named Scooter Nelson, who had disappeared without a trace a number of years earlier, is found in the trunk of the Mercedes with the dead body.  How did it get there?

At the rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending to the story, all of the bad guys are identified, but not before the obligatory additional murders have been committed.  I was disappointed with the way the author ended the story, and I think he would have been well advised to focus the story on a single protagonist.  I award three of the five available stars.  I did not particularly like the novel, but some readers might.
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My only problem with Archer Mayer books is the wait. I guess waiting equals quality and it is displayed in "Fall Guy".
Starting with a body in an abandoned stolen car, this story escalates quickly. Although I enjoy the peripheral characters Mr. Mayor has used in his recent books, it was nice to read a story with Joe, Sam, Willy and Les.
I highly recommend this entry in the Joe Gunther series. It contains NO awkward phrasing, word count repetition and clumsy plot elements. The book seems to end "abruptly" but all of the plot lines are tied up.
Disclaimer: I received a free early copy of this book.
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	PolProc-Joe Gunther-Vermont/New Hampshire-Contemp
	By Archer Mayor – 33rd in series
	Minotaur Books, Sept 2002, 304 pp.
	Rating:  VG+ / A

	First Sentence:  Joe Gunther crested the hill overlooking a small cluster of flashing, multihued vehicles below.

	Special Agent Joe Gunther, head of the VBI (Vermont Bureau of Investigation), and his team are confronted with a case that initially seems straightforward.  An expensive car with New Hampshire plates, reported stolen by Lemuel Shaw, is found in Vermont near the scene of two burglaries.  In the trunk is the body of the suspected burglar, Don Kalfus.  Evidence suggests he was killed in New Hampshire.  Also in the trunk are several stolen cell phones, one containing child porn, and another which belonged to a boy who disappeared years ago. The VBI team follows the clues as the body count continues to rise.
	Rather than a prologue, Mayor begins with a description that is both dramatic and evocative. His literary style is always a pleasure to read--”…specialist teams delicately work around one another like dancers of a minuet…” The author is thorough in his description of the activity which occurs at a crime scene and explains how multi-jurisdictional teams can work together cooperatively and without grandstanding.  There are a lot of acronyms used, but each is quickly explained.
	Mayor has developed a cast of central characters that are always a pleasure to rejoin, especially as we’ve seen them grow and develop with the series. They are a cohesive unit, knowing how each works while trusting and supporting one another with occasional flashes of humor. 
	The investigative team runs through the details of the case and offer theories providing the realism one hopes for in a police procedural; they follow the clues rather than making an assumption of guilt and fitting the clues to that assumption. Willie, who has been with Joe and the VBI from the beginning, is the one, occasional, maverick among the group, sometimes taking someone else with him—Willy…“I want to tail ‘em.”… “Sniper-style,” Lester suggested neutrally…”Without authorization, without backup, and without pay, if I’m reading this right.” Willy’s enthusiasm was unaffected. “Yup.  Sounds like fun, don’t it?”
	Child kidnapping, sex trafficking, and kiddy porn are exceedingly difficult subjects.  Mayor handles it with great sensitivity and understanding for the victims. In thinking about the child’s interview with social services, Joe had—"been caught by the metaphor of each victim becoming traumatically transformed into conjoined twins, one destined to lug around the corpse of the other until death.”
	FALL GUY is a police procedural that develops the clues as they are unearthed.  What begins as burglary and murder, develops to include at least two cold cases of missing children, a suspicious death,  an abused child, spousal abuse, and a life-threatening situation no one could have predicted. Even then, it’s all topped off with a very unexpected case of, “but wait, there’s more.” Once again, Archer Mayor has come through with a first-rate read.
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A once great series ruined by the author's personal political beliefs bleeding into fiction.  Last thing I want when I pick up a book is to be lectured at over politics, I don't care what side of the spectrum your politics are btw!  I read to escape political diatribes not to suffer through them.
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I really enjoyed this book. Continuing excellent series. Plot keeps changing directions. I highly recommend
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Joe Gunther arrives at the site of a stolen Mercedes with a dead man in the trunk.   The car has lots of stolen items in it, including the very old flip phone belonging to a teenager who went missing several years before, and still hasn't been found.  The car belonged to a wealthy man in Keene, NH, and was reported stolen a few days before.  The investigation includes police from both New Hampshire and Vermont.  

The first phone looked at by the police had child pornography, and that is the first case that Joe and team work on.  The wealthy owner of the car, Lemuel Shaw, lies that the car was stolen from his driveway when it was actually stolen at a strip club.   We later find that this was not his only lie!  The plot is very complicated, and the reader only gradually learns all the complications in this case.   Gunther and his VBI team work with Vermont police and some feds to find out how the man who stole the car is the dead man in the trunk.   

I have loved all the Joe Gunther books, and this is probably the best.  It grips the reader right at the beginning, and the reveal almost at the end is VERY exciting.  The story takes place back and forth in Vermont and New Hampshire, and has some really good investigators as well as a rotten cop and  the worst bad guy in the entire series.
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