“Marked Man”

Complicated family, hidden history, disguised murder

“Marked Man” by Archer Mayor is part of the series featuring Special Agent Joe Gunther, Vermont Bureau of Investigation. Characters, both new and recurring, are described in detail within the context of the situation. Readers get to know the players through personal details and background information dropped in as part of the narrative. The story opens in an unusual way when a medical student at the University of Vermont finds something unfamiliar, and suddenly the classroom cadaver ceases to be an instructional tool and instead becomes a case for the state medical examiner.

Alternating points of view take readers back and forth among several seemingly separate stories told by different people with diverse perspectives. Gunther and team are investigating a rash of unexplained deaths.  Members of a prominent family are dying one by one.  Is someone from the outside killing off people or is the murderer a member of the messed-up family? The missing piece in this tangled and complicated mess is “why.” Other characters are investigating not only these tragic deaths but additional problematic activities as well. Is it possible that each of these events is a little sliver of the same case? It is almost as if people are working on a jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces from four different boxes; nothing really fits together. 

At first, the narrative seems disconnected with lots of balls being juggled in the air at one time while readers wonder which will fall first. This is far from the truth, and even the book’s title hints at the surprising and shocking connection.  The story has a lot of family members with complex relationships, and I was tempted to make a family chart, but even that was complicated. Just reading about them made me understand why people wanted them dead.

I received a review copy of “Marked Man” from Archer Mayor, Minotaur Books, and Macmillan Publishing.  Each book in the “Joe Gunther Series” is strong, well organized, and stands on its own. Continuing characters wander in and out of complex plots giving readers an opportunity to know them as “real” people with strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and successes. The books do not have to be read in order, so those who might have missed a few in the series can easily go back and read them now.