Joe Gunther and his team of detectives from the Vermont Bureau of Investigation return for the twenty-fifth time in Proof Positive. The story opens with the death of a reclusive Vietnam war vet named Ben Kendall. Kendall, though actually an army photographer rather than a combat soldier, had nonetheless been wounded in the war and, after returning home, had largely kept to himself in his secluded rural home.
He had also become a hoarder, and every room in his house was filled with newspapers, magazines and other things that he had collected through the years. When he's found dead under a pile of debris that had collapsed on him, he appears to be the victim of a tragic household accident. But Kendall's cousin is the state Medical Examiner, Beverly Hillstrom and Beverly, in turn, is the current Main Squeeze of Joe Gunther, the head of the VBI.
Beverly performs the autopsy on her cousin and it leaves her feeling uneasy, though she can't point to anything definitely amiss. Joe agrees to look into the situation for her and when a second body is discovered deep among the piles of stuff that Kendall had crammed into the house, things definitely get more interesting.
The second body is that of a minor criminal and it now appears that buried in the mountains of stuff that Kendall had hoarded over the years may lie a secret that could be very damaging to a very powerful person. That person will stop at nothing to protect the secret and before long a whole list of people associated with Ben Kendall may be in very deep trouble.
This is a clever and entertaining plot; the cast of characters is now very well-developed and settling in with this book is like picking up with a group of old friends. This is one of the best regional mystery series that a reader might find and Archer Mayor has sustained a very high level of quality throughout the entire series. This book could be read as a stand-alone but be forewarned; it may well make you want to go back and read all of the previous twenty-four Joe Gunther books.