Monday, August 27, 2012

My Bookish Thoughts: John Verdon's Series

I was shy about beginning John Verdon's series featuring David Gurney, set in the beautiful upstate New York.  A retired NYPD detective was sure to be hardened and a bit curmudgeonly, right? I’ve been hearing great things about the series though, and so took the plunge.  I was pleasantly surprised. I took to Dave right away.  He’s extremely smart.  He is logical and pragmatic.  He thinks things through, including how to approach people.  He is also not one to be easily mislead.  He can be skeptical, but isn’t afraid to think outside the box.  He is nearly always humble.  Plus, he is tenacious and ever persistent.  Sound too good to be true?  Maybe.  Except he’s not.  He may be extremely good at his job, but he struggles in his personal life.  He and his adult son have a rocky relationship, which seems to stem more from his own hang ups rather than his son's.  In addition, he and his wife aren’t always on the same page.
Speaking of his wife, I adore her.  She’s a social worker, so there was bound to be an instant bond between she and I.  I felt sometimes as I read the books that she was trying too hard to fit her husband into the wrong sized peg.  Yet, I also understood her fears and concerns.  Even despite their apparent relationship issues, the couple love each other and are there for each other when they need each other most.  Madeleine’s insight into Dave’s cases was not only valuable, but valued.  I really appreciated that fact.  And  I came to admire both of them. 
In Think of a Number by John Verdon (Crown, 2010; 432 pgs), Dave is asked by an old college acquaintance for assistance in solving a puzzle.  The puzzle, a seeming threat to the acquaintance’s life, gnaws at Dave, and he ends up agreeing to help the man despite his reluctance.  As Dave puts the pieces of the puzzle together, he uncovers a very dark and sinister –and deadly—plot.  He butts heads with a few rather incompetent bureaucrats along the way, a theme that seems to run through all three of the books in the series so far.  I suspected early on who the bad guy might be—but it didn’t ruin the wild ride that Think of a Number was.  Although I felt the book got off to a slow start, when it took off, it really took off.   
In John Verdon's Shut Your Eyes Tight (Crown, 2011; 528 pgs), a bride is beheaded at her own wedding reception,the killer, the gardener, seemingly having disappeared without a trace.  Dave has no intention of getting involved with the investigation, but his friend at BCI talks him into at least taking a look.  It’s a pretty good bet that “taking a look” won’t be enough for Dave.  After meeting with the bride’s mother and learning a few more facts, Dave can’t help but get involved.  As Dave unravels the mystery, more questions are raised and the more he uncovers.   Shut Your Eyes Tight was even more twisty than the first book, totally gripping and impossible to put down.  
And then comes Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon (Crown, 2012; 464 pgs).  I was holding on for dear life from page one.  After the events in the second book in the series, Dave has been left wounded, both physically and mentally.  No one could come through either of the two cases he’s dealt with since he retired and come away unscathed.  Madeleine is worried about him, afraid he is sinking deeper into depression.  She encourages him in her subtle way to get involved then with the request of an old reporter friend of Dave’s.  He’s been asked to help her daughter, a fledgling reporter, with her first real project, a documentary television series, and perhaps also sort out the problem with her ex, who she believes has been harassing her.  The young reporter has opened a can of worms with her project, interviewing the families of victims of a serial killer.  
There is so much going on in Let the Devil Sleep, so many different threads and directions taken.   It was almost crazy making.  Dave’s mental state added to that, making the book all the more compelling and intense.  I came away from the book feeling as exhausted as I’m sure Dave and his family must have felt.


I loved the setting of the novels.  Upstate New York is one of my favorite places.  The series mostly takes place in the Catskills, although Dave does a bit of traveling during his investigations.  
The plots in all three novels are a bit over the to and are rather dark and gruesome.  For me, this series is all about the characters, particularly Dave and his wife Madeleine.  I am glad I started with the first book in the series.  Although each book can stand on its own mystery wise, the evolution of the characters, the changes over time based on the experiences in each book, make it worth starting at the beginning.  
John Verdon has put himself in a good position.  Not only is his retired detective character young enough to have many more books written about him, he also has a past that would be worth exploring should the author want to go there.  I certainly will continue with the series!  

To learn more about John Verdon and his books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Let the Devil Sleep on the TLC Book Tours route!


Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copies of Think of a Number and Let the Devil Sleeps provided by the publisher.  I bought my own copy of Shut Your Eyes Tight.



© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

20 comments:

  1. I have the first book but as always I have yet to read it. I'm loving the whole idea of this series after reading your review of the three books....making a note to myself to read them!

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    1. Staci - It took me forever to get to the first book, but I'm glad I read it. I really liked reading his three books back to back too--the author does a really good job of re-introducing his character without making it feel like that's what is happening. That's pretty rare in series' books!

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  2. Over the top works quite well with thrillers. This sounds like a series I'd love.

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    1. Kathy - I think you'd like this series too! And yes, thrillers generally do tend to be over the top in one way or another. :-)

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  3. I am so glad that you read all of these and that you got along famously with them all as well. Thrillers aren't always my bag, but I do enjoy a good one now and then, and think that this might be a series worth investigating. Great job with these reviews!

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    1. Heather - The author gets into the psychology of his villians pretty well in the novels, which I like--I forgot to mention that in my review. I did enjoy them and look forward to reading more by this author.

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  4. Ah. I've been eyeballing this series for awhile now. I am a series addict, but I have so many that I follow that I'm starting to forget to follow some of them. I think that many of them DO fall into a rut of being in competition for the goriest, most violent books, but the real draw is the characters. I'm going to see what options I have in reading these.

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    1. Sandy - I can't seem to stay away from series either. :-) I'm with you--I'm behind in quite a few of the series I follow and not sure where I left off--probably even forgot I follow a couple or so!

      And I agree with you about these types of books falling into the rut of proving which can be the goriest or violent. I'd rather have well developed and interesting characters any day.

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  5. I've added these to my to-get list! lol so far have visited 5 blogs to start catching up from my holidays, and have added this author and two others! lol you did make it sound very interesting, and I do like series where the characters develop and change. Thanks so much, Wendy. It's always good to find a new series that you like, isn't it?

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  6. Susan - That's what falling behind can get you. LOL I hope you had a nice holiday. I really like Dave and his wife and hope you do too if you give this series a try!

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  7. I'm glad you gave the series a shot - it looks like you really enjoyed the books! Oh, and I think I'd like Dave's wife too.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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    1. Heather - I imagine she's had to deal with a lot over the course of their marriage and his career, even without their son's death all those years ago. She seems like a good person.

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  8. This is one of my favorite series! I'm so glad you are enjoying it as well.

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    1. Joy - I am glad I decided to read it. I nearly didn't!

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  9. For me, it was Dave and Madeline's relationship that gave it that extra layer of interest, that set it apart from other mysteries. Glad to see you loved them. Me too :)

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  10. I just added all three to my hold list at the library for Mike, I think he'll like them. (two of them on the shelf, but I can still request they be pulled for me, yay!)

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  11. Sounds like it has all of the makings to be a series that I would also enjoy!

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    1. Kathleen - I am glad I decided to read the series, despite my initial hesitation.

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