"Paradise City" is the 23rd in a series of detective novels set in Vermont and featuring Joe Gunther of the fictional Vermont Bureau of Investigation. Flatfoot Joe and his band of colleagues are once again tasked with helping crack a bewildering case that involves a series of seemingly unrelated break-ins and burglaries, stretching from Burlington to Boston. The trail leads them to Northhampton, Mass., or "Paradise City," where the convergence of cops and crooks leads to a taut and, as usual, surprising finish.
Gunther is still nursing the psychic wounds left behind by the untimely death of his former girlfriend, shot by a gunman in a previous Mayor novel. But when reports of the burglaries, including one at a large second home near his hangout in Brattleboro stump the local law enforcement units, he is forced, with a little boost from a previous flame who is now governor of Vermont, to shake off his sorrow and self-pity and show the rest of them how it's done.
Jewelry, antiques and flat screen TVs are among the items that seem to go missing from the burgled homes. One of the robbery attempts goes bad, and eventually results in the death of an elderly homeowner. That unleashes a vengeful niece, who, convinced the police aren't giving the case their maximum effort, goes rogue and vigilante, confusing all sides until matters get sorted out at the end.
Mayor is one author who writes "from the inside," as the expression goes. When he's not fleshing out the latest adventures of Joe and his sidekicks Willy Kunkle, Sammie Martens and Lester Spinney, Mayor works as a deputy sheriff with the Bellows Falls Police Department.
And when he's not doing that, he's a death examiner with the state medical examiner's office. So he's seen it all, Vermont-style at any rate, up close and personal.
"Basically, I write about daily life," Mayor said in a telephone interview last week, adding that "daily life" for him may be a little racier than average. But he likes to keep it sort of simple.
"I don't overreach," he said. "I never set out to write stories that are fantabulous and convoluted or extra tricky and clever. I try to write about us." He writes whenever there's free time in between other work. The ideas for the stories come from all different sources - part of the inspiration for "Paradise City" came from a sister who's a jeweler and piqued his interest over how hyper-competitive the business can be. Through her came the idea for a mobile smelting unit in a van that melts down stolen jewelry, he said. That worked its way into one scene.
"One conversation leads to another," he said. "I love to put my voice into things I know a little about. I like to write - it's my means of expression ... kind of like my musical instrument."
Mayor will be appearing at the Northshire Bookstore Friday, Nov. 2 to discuss his new book. The event starts at 7 p.m. For more information, call the bookstore at 802-362-2200.