Tucker Peak
Archer Mayor
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Buy *Tucker Peak* online
Tucker Peak
Archer Mayor
William Morrow
336 pages
September 2002
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Archer Mayor's twelfth Vermont-based Joe Gunther mystery novel, Tucker Peak, gives the reader slow-building action, a handful of tense moments, and logical (but not obvious) conclusions with a cast of interesting characters.

Curled Up With a Good BookTucker Peak Ski Resort has been hit with a series of burglaries. The county sheriff grudgingly invites Lt. Joe Gunther's newly formed and underappreciated Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) team to investigate the latest burglary; it included a watch worth twenty thousand dollars. The sheriff has had zero luck in finding the burglars since he has dedicated most of his time and resources to helping the resort deal with environmental protesters who are unhappy with the resort using pond water for snowmaking and for wanting to expand the ski resort.

The VBI was formed to assist with major investigations. The benefit of using the unit is that the VBI works behind the scenes and never takes credit for solving cases. The downside for the unit is they don't receive any public recognition for their hard work. Approaching citizens and saying "we're with the VBI" gets them snickers, questioning looks, or a quick dismissal.

Members of the VBI feel that looking into a burglary is not the best way to use their talents. However, their burglary case quickly turns into hard work when their prime suspect's girlfriend ends up dead and a burglary victim is savagely beaten. Determining that the burglaries are an inside job allows the Lieutenant and his coworker Sammie Martens to go undercover at the resort as a maintenance man and ski instructor, respectively.

Spunky and determined to prove herself with each assignment, Sammie jumps at the opportunity to do undercover work and is quite satisfied with her bleached hair and quick learning ability on the slope. Her somewhat significant other (neither easily admits to being in a relationship) and coworker, grumpy yet perceptively intelligent one-armed Willy Kunkle, has trouble dealing with Sammie looking so great and having so much fun.

Gunther runs into a detective at Tucker Peak one evening and has to wonder what else is happening at the resort. More burglaries and a few random acts of vandalism on the slopes keep the VBI constantly moving and questioning what is really going on. Tucker Peak's Board of Directors wants answers yet doesn't help with the investigation. They are applying their best public relations efforts to keep the protesters calm while going about with their renovation and expansion of the resort. The environmental protesters, named the Tucker Protection League (TPL), are lead by Gunther's significant other, Gail Zigman. The two have a somewhat long-distance relationship and it's hard to talk about work when they are seemingly on opposing sides. Gail is able to find a way to stay true to her organization and help Joe with the investigation by talking with another member of the TPL who actually has answers. Unfortunately he isn't willing to share what he knows.

Tucker Peak isn't predictable, nor is its outcome. It's interesting to note that Sammie Martens and Willie Kunkle are strong characters and could easily have their own stories. Mayor's thirteenth Joe Gunther mystery, Sniper's Wife, is due in October 2002. It strongly features Willie instead of Joe, but Joe and Sammie are included to assist Willie with a case that takes him out of Vermont to New York City.

Mayor brings a Vermont flavor to his books with his direct and thoughtful prose. He's writing about an area he is very familiar with and it allows the reader to get a true sense of Vermont. Tucker Peak takes place in the winter, and with the amount of snow and the residents who like to hide away in their mountain homes, it make you wish you were reading in front of a fire.

It isn't necessary to have read any of the previous Joe Gunther mysteries to enjoy Tucker Peak. Previous books will help with understanding the regular characters' backgrounds, but each novel is enjoyable on its own.

© 2002 by Lisa Haselton for Curled Up With a Good Book

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