Summary and book reviews of St Albans Fire by Archer Mayor

St Albans Fire

A Joe Gunther Mystery

By Archer Mayor

St Albans Fire
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2005,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2006,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

Archer Mayor's talents for combining compelling characters, intriguing settings, and gripping plots have earned him great critical acclaim. His previous novel, The Surrogate Thief, won the 2004 New England Book Award for Fiction, the first time this prize has ever been given to a mystery writer. Now in a sizzling new novel, Mayor's hero Joe Gunther returns to solve the mystery of the deadly...

ST. ALBANS FIRE

Winter is on the wane in northwestern Vermont. The moon hangs bright and cold in the silvery night sky over hundreds of square miles of a peaceful, dormant landscape of dairy farms. Young Bobby Cutts enters the family barn to tend to the beasts within…and encounters a nightmare. Suddenly surrounded by bolts of fire, Bobby and the entire herd perish in a stampeding, hellish circle of flames.

Called to the scene to investigate, Joe Gunther instantly recognizes arson. But by whom? And for what possible reason? There is little insurance, the family is loving and tightly knit, and there are few neighborhood animosities.

Yet murder this is, and Gunther quickly discovers that someone is wreaking havoc across the bucolic farmlands surrounding the town of St. Albans. Somewhere in the dense social fabric of the community, in the hearts and souls of Bobby's family, and in the cutthroat farming business underneath the region's placid exterior are the truths Joe Gunther and his team must ferret out. But what looked like a local case is about to take them from the barns of Vermont to the gritty streets of Newark, New Jersey.

Before all is said and done, Joe Gunther will meet one of his deadliest opponents to date…and he will need far more than his skills as a policeman to protect the people closest to his heart.

Chapter 1

Bobby Cutts lay on his bed, watching the bedroom ceiling, its shadowy surface painted by the downstairs porch light in a pattern he'd known forever. This room and the barn across the road had always been his sanctuaries—places of private celebration during high times, as when Beverly Cable allowed him a kiss in the eighth grade—and harbors to which he retired in pain, as now, when Marianne had once again suggested that they should try seeing other people.

He hated that euphemism, knowing too well what it meant. Marianne and he had been dating for a year, and it had happened twice already, counting this one. In fact, he'd been the one being "seen" when they first met, as she was dumping Barry Newhouse. He remembered the groping at the drive-in, the more serious stuff on her uncle's office couch one afternoon, and finally those hours in complete silence in her bedroom as her parents slept down the hall. Recalling that night—the smells of ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Richard Lipez - The Washington Post

.... Gunther is the kind of cop many readers would like to have show up if they were victims of a crime, and what this sturdy series lacks in excitement it makes up for in reassurance.

Marilyn Stasio - The New York Times

... Mayor seems determined to identify patterns in local crimes that would set them within a broader, more alarming national context. And while finding a more sinister reason for a barn burning doesn't make the result any less tragic, it does put readers on notice: there's nowhere left to escape to.

Publishers Weekly

Though the discoveries in Newark fall into place almost too easily, Mayor serves up another highly satisfying mystery.

Kirkus Reviews

Will Joe catch a killer and lose a lover? The most understated cop in crime fiction (The Surrogate Thief, 2004, etc.) racks up a satisfying 16th in a series that marches confidently to its own unhurried beat.

Booklist - Jenny McLarin

Mayor does everything right, keeping readers riveted by expertly interweaving well-developed characters, a fast-moving plot, and interesting factoids about his setting. Best of all is Gunther himself: a kind and sensitive cop whose intelligence and integrity make an irresistible combination.

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Beyond the Book

When asked why he writes what he writes, Mayor says he's boiled down his answer to, 'ignorance and curiosity - I am driven to find out more about the world I inhabit, but about which I will always know too little.' 

In addition to writing a novel each year, Mayor also finds time to be a town constable, an interior attack fire fighter, moderator at the annual town meeting, on the board of trustees of a nearby hospital, captain the local Rescue Squad, and has applied to join ...

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