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Chat ? A Joe Gunther Mystery
Archer Mayor
Grand Central Publishing 2007
326 pages

Chat, the latest (2007) Archer Mayor Joe Gunther mystery novel is pretty much a page turner. Normally this author and series is hit and miss. Some Archer Mayor mysteries are good, some are really uneven, and Gatekeeper is atrocious. Why is it then I keep finding myself reading this Vermont based series and author? After all, I am not the most patient or generous whodunit reader around. Chat was worth the return visit.

Archer Mayor's bad habit of tackling too many story lines and inserting too many secondary characters in his mystery novel is under pretty tight control here. Joe Gunther deals with a couple of cases and a new romance but Mayor keeps things right on track and focused. The romance part, another Mayor weakness, doesn't get too existentially talky.

The first case involves trying to figure out who possibly sabotaged his brother's car, sending him and their mother to the hospital. The second case in this mystery has to do with male bodies with no apparent cause of death or identification popping up on Joe Gunther's turf. The chapters are interspersed with one page transcripts of computer chat between a guy and a girl.

You do not have to be much of an armchair detective to solve one of the mysteries in Chat by Archer Mayor. Mayor just about gives it away two thirds into this whodunit (or does he?). Still, it is fun to see the pieces come together, the tumblers click in the right order.

Chat still has perhaps one character too many but this is quite easy to deal with here.

Chat is by far the best Archer Mayor novel in a while. Someone who wants to discover this author would do well to start with the very early mysteries like The Skeleton's Knee, Borderlines, or Open Season, but Chat is also a good place to start.