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Published March 8, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Seven Days writers can't possibly read, much less review, all the books that arrive in a steady stream by post, email and, in one memorable case, a sleuth of bears (not the cocaine-addled kind). So this monthly feature is our way of introducing you to a handful of books by Vermont authors. To do that, we contextualize each book just a little and quote a single representative sentence from, yes, page 32.
The Vermont fairy tale looms large, set in an enchanted land of chicken pie suppers, country fiddlers and fiery fall hillsides. Such pastoral pleasures feature predictably in Anne Averyt's Vermont Perspectives, a collection of pithy essays she originally read on Vermont Public's now-retired radio commentary series.
Averyt does share fresh insights from her Green Mountain bubble. While tending the gardens of vacationing friends, she gains a "new appreciation for the hard work of abundance." An out-of-town guest's delighted reaction to a springtime "sea of yellow in a field of green" reminds her that even "nuisance weeds" bring joy.
Most refreshingly, the Williston resident acknowledges the imperfections of her home state. Averyt reflects on a friend's notion that Vermont is a "pretend state" offering a carefully engineered "Bob Newhart country inn view of life." In another essay, she notes that Vermont's cost of living can be "daunting" and that we have not escaped the drug epidemic. These observations add nuance and the perspectives promised by the book's title.
Authors sometimes suggest their own page 32 sentences when they send us their books, and K.A. Bachus' choice was spot-on. The Burlington-area author — and U.S. Air Force veteran and retired criminal defense attorney — also noted in a 2021 letter to Seven Days that "I have not yet set a book in Vermont partly because ... I hesitate to place my dangerous characters in so nice a location."
"Dangerous" is putting it mildly. Vory — a Russian term for organized thieves — is the sixth book in Bachus' fast-paced series The Charlemagne Files, which follows a multinational team of deadly intelligence operatives. Set in the early 1990s, Vory opens with a man on a revenge mission teaming up with the titular crime organization to target the daughter of a member of Charlemagne. He doesn't last long, but the operation puts the team on the trail of a bigger threat.
Given the characters' complicated web of professional and personal relationships, Bachus' series is probably best read from the beginning. The Charlemagne Files now boasts nine volumes, for anyone seeking a hard-boiled spy binge.
Luke Campbell never wanted to be a cop in a place like Granton, Vt., deep in the Northeast Kingdom. But he lost his big-city detective job after a deadly misunderstanding involving a state senator's son, and now he just needs a paycheck. His first day on the Granton police force, Luke subdues the town drunk with his pugilistic prowess. When his new chief refuses to let him press charges, he learns that small towns have internal politics just as gnarled and inscrutable as those of cities.
Vermonter Brandon Barrows is a prolific writer of comic books, mystery and horror tales, and more. In Strangers' Kingdom, he combines the pulp tradition of the two-fisted noir detective with rich local color that fans of Archer Mayor will enjoy.
On Luke's second day in Granton, a decaying John Doe turns up in the woods — and that's just the first body. The former urban cop finds himself unraveling a web of deceit that will lead him to an unsettling rural reckoning.
Was a fatal hunting accident in northern New Hampshire really an accident? Law enforcement deemed it one when career U.S. intelligence officer Stephen "Win" Callahan was shot by a deer hunter in 1980. Decades later, Callahan's lifelong friend isn't so sure, but he needs a local detective to help him dig deeper.
Private investigator Michael Hanlon is back in the seventh title in Boone's New England Mysteries series, adding to adventures such as A Cold Morning in Maine, A Rainy Weekend in Rhode Island and A Pizza Night in the Bahamas (a stick-season vacation). Boone's recurring character has echoes of the Norwich-based author's own career as a former radio news reporter whose local coverage inspires his fiction.
Contacted out of the blue by Callahan's now-elderly friend, Hanlon learns the backstory on a park bench in Williamstown. He considers the request over breakfast with Louie Ragsdale, his sidekick, at West Lebanon, N.H.'s 4 Aces Diner. The cold case will bring him to familiar haunts around the Upper Valley — and far beyond.
A corrupt, murderous president dispatches Russian hit men to stop his own children from uncovering a terrible secret, all while trying to track down a stolen fortune. President Wilhelm "Hick" Richter's reign is threatened when his daughter and her younger brother discover he murdered his first wife. As Richter plots with foreign agents to secure his reelection and stave off financial ruin, the country roils in tumult in J.B. Manning's political farce.
It's a madcap debut novel for the Elmore resident. A former attorney and college professor in New Jersey and New York City, Manning has published poetry in the New Yorker, but his tale of a bloated, morally bankrupt president and his beyond-dysfunctional family marks his first foray into fiction — one that seems to mirror recent events in American history. As he spins the tale of President Richter, with settings ranging from Florida to Washington, D.C., to Paris, Manning takes an absurdist look at modern politics and all the fantastically ridiculous characters who inhabit such a world.
Tags: Books, Vermont Perspectives, Anne Averyt, Vory, K.A. Bachus, Strangers' Kingdom, Brandon Barrows, A Blue Moon in Vermont, Terry Boone, Richter the Mighty, J.B. Manning
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