Customer Reviews: The Second Mouse (Joe Gunther)
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on October 12, 2006
Archer Mayor's Second Mouse starts not with a bang, but a whimper. But in this case, that's a good thing.

When a local woman is found dead in her home, a converted Vermont schoolhouse, the local authorities aren't even sure a crime has been committed. Called in because he's recently split with his longtime girlfriend--and one of the local cops wants to play matchmaker with the victim's best friend--Joe Gunther doesn't hit it off the with the friend, but the case intrigues him. Though there are no signs of foul play, Gunther can't help but feel that there's something not right about this death, no matter how natural the causes might seem.

Alongside the story of the mysterious death, Mayor also takes the reader into the sometimes bleak, often disturbing world of a trio of misfits whose story is gradually revealed to have more impact on what took place in that converted schoolhouse than first meets the eye. With endearing and refreshingly unusual secondary characters and a satisfying level of complexity, this finely crafted character study is a thoughtful and meticulously plotted look into the sometimes conflicting roles that friendship can play in the lives of both those who enforce the law, and those who break it.

There is a quiet melancholy to Mayor's prose that is at once hopeful and tragic. One feels the futility of these interwoven lives he portrays, but underlying the bleakness, there is comfort in knowing that good can survive even when faced with evil.

In the tradition of the best British police procedurals by John Harvey and Peter Robinson, Mayor's characters are not always right, and certainly not always likeable, but they are never dull. Joe Gunther is the rare police procedural hero who doesn't dominate the story, though with a quiet efficiency it is Gunther who keeps the story on track and who ultimately is the one who links all the divergent threads of the story together leading the reader toward the inevitable crescendo of a conclusion.

Armchair Interview says: Good story with outstanding character development.
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on December 2, 2012
For me, this read was saved by its spot-on descriptions of Bennington, Vermont. Born and bred in Bennington I have attended many dances in that Armory and Mayor had me right back there when he described the antics on that long set of stairs. It just went on from there with him really capturing the flavor of many Bennington locals. He is good at this in his books and it was quite a treat reading about my old home town.

Saved from what you might ask? Well, saved from the most romance and sex scenes I have ever read in a Joe Gunther mystery. The focus of this book seemed to be more romance and lust than mystery. Wanting the heart of the book to be a mystery, I was not as entertained as I have been with other Mayor mysteries.

Speaking of mystery, the stage is quite nicely set in the beginning when a pretty woman's body is found in a sleeping pose in her homey Wilmington cottage, only to wander all over the place with the meanderings of a juvenile criminal threesome that evolves into a lustful twosome, Joe's romantic interludes, and his two employees' flirtations. There are no hooks, no clues, and no interesting intertwined winks in this book. The only common thread is the Bennington setting. For me, this was not a mystery. It was a disjointed tale of a bunch of people just living their lives. Sometimes living quite sadly. Where is the Joe Gunther I've come to know? He made appearances, but was not really present. I like it better when Joe weaves this life stuff into the cloth of a good mystery.
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on November 16, 2012
In all honesty, I am responding to a request from Amazon to review this book. It's been awhile, and I am such a book junkie that I read 'em and move on. The really outstanding of the group are what stand out for me. This particular Mayor novel doesn't meet that level.
Don't get me wrong; Archer Mayor is one of my favorite writers, but this particular story just didn't stick for me. Looking at the cover gives me a vague memory of the story, but that's about as far as it goes.
When I can't remember the plot line of an Archer Mayor novel, then I have to consider it a so-so story. It is, I am certain, an anomaly.
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2006
Vermont Bureau of Investigation Field Force Commander Joe Gunther hears the call of a body found and stops to see whether he can help the responding State Police. At first, he seems a natural death, but something just doesn't quite fit and makes Joe uncomfortable enough, he decides to investigate. At the same time, there is a pair of bad guys on a crime spree but there's a problem. One of the men is in love with his partner's wife.

I always enjoy Mayor's books. He has a very visual, evocative style completely involving the reader. Joe is the consummate professional cop always questioning and ever loyal to his friends. Mayor expertly takes two story lines, builds them, intertwines them and bringing them to a satisfying conclusion. While Mayor refers to people and relationships in the past, although there is one I'm hoping will finally disappear, the reader never feels left out. I'm happy to say "Second Mouse" is another very good entry into this series.
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on July 25, 2011
First, I will say that Archer Mayor was wise to start up a new branch of Vermont state law enforcement (Vermont Bureau of Investigation or VBI) some books back so that Joe could join up and hence move around the whole state. After all, how much crime can take place in Brattleboro with its 12,000 residents, where Joe was merely a detective? With his new role as a VBI special agent, Joe can move around the state and even into other states with more authenticity. So that was a good move by Mayor.

In The Second Mouse, Mayor makes another change by moving in a direction a number of writers take when things are getting too comfortable and predictable in their series: he takes the reader into the minds and actions of the bad guys. I, for one, don't really want to know what the bad guys are up to, because it will be bad and cruel. Personally, I don't see that providing some insight into either dangerous criminals or weak followers makes the story better or more compelling. Mayor's bad guys in this book just give me the creeps. There is a feeling of hopelessness that Ellis can turn things around, and a feeling of helplessness when he deals with Mel. I didn't find those feelings improved the story. That he cares for his dying mother is a nice touch, but it felt contrived.

The initial murder that starts out the book is rather a weak plot device. Mayor usually does better. Ellis' plan to steal the radioactive materials seems impossible for that character and, well, just sort of silly.

I agree with a fellow reviewer that the one-night stand Joe has with a professional colleague of sorts was out of character and rather embarrassing.

I found this book boring. I had trouble wanting to pick it up again after I laid it down for a break. After awhile, I just wanted to get done with it. I have read most of the rest of this series, and I think this is the weakest book so far.

For more mystery series that may entertain you, check out my website describing and reviewing many series (see my Amazon profile for the URL).
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on September 22, 2014
Archer Mayor is somewhat under appreciated in the mystery genre, and this book shows some subtlety you would expect from far more popular authors. While it seems that, like Angela Lansbury's Cabot Cove, Vermont will run out of crimes and residents to murder, Mayor manages to provide even more action and intrigue, along with well developed characters in the back story, by importing some of the crime from neighboring areas and venturing out into the rest of the Northeast. It becomes an obsession with reraders to know the lives of the characters, and to root for, or feel sorry for, those who are either down or facing both physical and emotional danger.
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on March 16, 2016
Not as intense as some of the others in the series. But still a wonderful spin. The love extra marital affair between the two thieves beautifully betrayed. The twists and turns satisfying. Once again Joe is the law officer who is able to use his patience , understanding . And kindness to manipulate the bad guys. Joe in this volume is more cerebral than physical....(except in his love life)working always with his complicated colleagues, staff,and superiors. I started reading Mayors books in July when my husband was in the hospital . Now it's March and I'm up to 18 in the series
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on June 12, 2014
This is another great one by Archer Mayor. There are 3 seemingly unrelated parallel stories going on, and they stay separate as they each develop for a majority of the book before they finally come together.
It all begins with Joe Gunter stopping in to check in on an initial investigation of what appears to be a death by natural causes. There are a few things that bug Joe, and he gets the okay from the officer in charge, to go ahead and look into it if he wants, although the officer with jurisdiction believes that it is not a death of suspicious nature.
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on May 22, 2015
Another excellent yarn by a someone who knows the inside out of police investigation and procedure. Plus, unlike some
Heroes, Gunther has a heart. The thing he was trying to solve splintered in many directions when it wasn't that hard to see what had happened.
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on November 14, 2006
I have read and have all 17 books in this series and have yet to be disappointed . Joe Gunther has become an old friend and it will be a long year till the next book comes out.

This book has some interesting twists and turns to all the charactors final collision that, without some fate would have never happened. Great story plot and always great charactors. Only problem with this book is the same I have with all of Joe Gunthers adventures... once I start reading them I can't put them down !!!!

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