Book Reviews

Book Review: Open Season by Archer Mayor – Murder Most Uncommon

This is the first book in a series written about a police officer in the sleepy town of Brattleboro, Vermont. First published in 1988, it’s a bit dated, but still was an enjoyable read.

There aren’t many murders in this larger town in the southeast corner of the state. The one sensational murder several years back was solved pretty quickly, or so it seems. Lt. Joe Gunther is called out on a cold December night to the scene of a murder. A local woman who was being tortured by harassing phone calls took a shotgun to an intruder who she thought was the man on the phone threatening to do vile things to her. A little digging by Gunther and he realizes the two were on the jury for the murder of a young woman three years before. They found the man guilty and sent him to prison.

One of the deputies is found handcuffed to a utility pole and his car stolen by a man in a ski mask. The suspect they locate is another member of that jury, who has an alibi for the night before although the squad car was found in his driveway. It would seem someone wants them to take a harder look at the murder they once thought was an open and shut case.

As Joe digs into the past, it would seem someone doesn’t want him to. One night he’s pulled out of his apartment after someone turned on the gas. The man in the ski mask pulls him out and says someone wants him to stop investigating the murder.

This was a time before there was much in the way of DNA evidence. The start of the technology is there, and it’s explored in this book. The medical examiner thought the case was too easy and luckily kept evidence that can be re-examined. Joe and his buddy on the force, Frank, who was the lead investigator on the original murder, take the evidence to Connecticut to be analyzed. The results prove that the wrong man was sent to prison.

This was a decent thriller. It kept me guessing until the end, but that would be because all of the suspects aren’t brought forth in the story. There are a lot of information dumps giving extended background into characters, some of who will be back in future novels and some who won’t. It did take away from the story. The characters were interesting, though, and the story was well-paced. The police work seems to be accurate from what others have said, if maybe things on the force are portrayed as more amicable than they would be having to reopen a murder investigation. There are a few things that even as a civilian I thought were implausible, but it can be overlooked a bit.

I’ll continue with the series for at least a little bit and see how it goes. It’s nice to see another book in a setting that’s familiar to me, particularly when events to them to the town of Gorham, New Hampshire which is about an hour north of me. I know that town really well. Nowadays, the snow generally doesn’t bottle things up the way it’s described in this book, but 35 years ago, I’m sure it did.

I found Open Season on Kindle Unlimited. If you have that and don’t have to pay for it, I think it’s worth checking out.