During the height of a harsh Vermont winter, the body of a woman is found hanging from the steel-mesh retaining net lining the cliffs along the interstate. She was brutally murdered, with the word "dyke" carved into her chest. She was also a state senator and best friend and ally of the current governor, Gail Zigman. At Zigman's personal request, Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team agree to help the Vermont State Police in their investigation before the victim's high profile and powerful friends create the inevitable publicity maelstrom.
Raffner was indeed a lesbian, and the word carved into her chest might be evidence of a hate crime, or it might be a feint designed to confuse and mislead investigators. But the question remains-what was she involved with, who wanted her dead, and what company was she keeping? What Gunther and his team discover during their initial investigation isn't the stuff of a simple murder. Someone killed a prominent figure and fabricated an elaborate scene for a purpose.
And this might only be the beginning...in Archer Mayor's The Company She Kept.
Joe Gunther shows no sign of slowing down in Mayor's accomplished 26th novel featuring the field force commander of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (after 2014's Proof Positive). When the half-frozen body of Susan Raffner, a Vermont state senator, is found hanging from a cliff off the interstate with the word Dyke carved on her chest, the state's governor, Gail Zigman, puts Gunther in charge of the case. Gunther, who knew and respected Raffner, a polarizing activist and Zigman's close friend and adviser, can count on the usual colorful crew to help him out. The irascible Willy Kunkle and the reckless Sammie Martens, the only female on the VBI squad, shine as they pursue the possibly misleading few clues. A thorough vetting of Raffner's activities and associates yields some surprising results. Mayor does a good job dramatizing the political and cultural conflicts, but it's the special push-the-envelope talents of Gunther and his team that make this series so enjoyable.