It’s been nine years since I’ve reviewed an Archer Mayor novel! And my November 2009 review was none too enthusiastic. So I am pleased to report that I am definitely enthusiastic about Bury the Lead, even though the correct phrase should be “bury the lede.”
Fortunately Mayor addresses that question in the author’s note at the beginning of the book.
But yikes, I see that this is the 29th novel in the Joe Gunther series. I’ve probably read all 29 — well, maybe 24 or 25 — so why have I reviewed only three of them? Well, here’s a fourth review, at least. And the book I’m reviewing is a strong contributor to the series.
Author Joe Gunther describes himself on his webpage as “author + detective + historian + medical examiner,” and all four professions are relevant to this particular story. (He has actually had a lot more than those four jobs, but let us not get overwhelmed.) It’s certainly not unheard of for a medical examiner to write mystery novels, but it’s relatively rare, especially in cases like Mayor where the protagonist is not an ME. It isn’t a spoiler to point out that his significant other, however, is. It’s also not a spoiler for me to observe that the person who initially confesses to the murder is not the actual culprit; that’s clear from the beginning, but it’s not the least bit clear who the actual culprit is — until close to the end.
This series has something in common with another famous police procedural series: Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct. Yes, of course, Vermont is very different from Manhattan, and McBain didn’t really have a protagonist, although Carella pretty much fit the bill; but in both cases we have a continuing cast of characters who function well as a team and are presented both as individuals and as a collective. If you’re not familiar with these two series, I heartily recommend that you get to know both of them. You can start at the beginning, but you don’t need to. If you do, you will be interested in the continuing character development of the cast, proceeding slowly (in the Vermont way for the Mayor series) from book to book.
As the title suggests, Bury the Lead is in part about journalism. But it’s also about the food industry, and Vermont, and detection, and ebola, and about the human relations among people who are on the same team. Read it!