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Archer Mayor's mysteries featuring Joe Gunther are "regionals" depicting life and crime in Brattleboro and other locales of the upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, along the Interstate 91 "ski-way." This installment takes Joe south down I-91, into the Western Massachusetts part of the Valley--which happens to be the region where I happily hang out. The action centers on Northampton, the self-proclaimed "Paradise City" of the book's title, which is generally regarded as the fine arts and fine dining center of Western Mass. (Snobs from Boston need not comment on that statement, thank you.)
I enjoyed reading the portrayals of Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield, and other haunts of my stomping grounds. Most of the places described are real--from Coolidge Cafe to the Summit House, from the abandoned Strategic Air Command post hidden inside Mount Tom to Amity Street and Potwine Lane, the accuracy of the locations was fun (at least for a "local" like me). The art and jewelry gallery that is crucial to the story is fictitious, but certain (noncriminal) elements of it were recognizable in real establishments.
Even though the "taste of home" kept me reading, I found the overall story less than compelling. I also found it very hard to follow the characters. We are introduced in rapid succession to Billie, Willie, Mickey, Bobby, Tony, Jimmy, Dan, and Ed, to name a few. One's a victim, some are cops, and the rest are bad guys. We also have Mina, Anna, Donna, Nancy, Sammie, and Lou. It was a relief to meet Li Anming, an artisan "smuggled in" from China and kept as slave labor, re-setting and re-crafting stolen jewelry; her character at least I was able to recognize readily.
I remember reading a couple of the early Gunther books, and that I enjoyed "Borderlines" and "The Skeleton's Knee." But the series never grabbed me, and there are 15 or 16 books in between "Knee" and "Paradise" that I never read; so it's partly my own lack that I didn't know the characters (beyond Joe Gunther himself) who are series regulars. But even discounting the regulars, the rather flimsy plot seemed overburdened with players. It's a fairly short read with some interesting scenes. Not awful, not great.
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Would you listen to another book narrated by William Dufris?
Any additional comments?
The Vermont (and New England) detail gives them special interest for both residents and visitors.