In this latest novel from bestselling author John Verdon, ingenious puzzle solver Dave Gurney puts under the magnifying glass a notorious serial murder case – one whose motives have been enshrined as law-enforcement dogma - and discovers that everyone has it wrong.
The most decorated homicide detective in NYPD history, Dave Gurney is still trying to adjust to his life of quasi-retirement in upstate New York when a young woman who is producing a documentary on a notorious murder spree seeks his counsel. Soon after, Gurney begins feeling threatened: a razor-sharp hunting arrow lands in his yard, and he narrowly escapes serious injury in a booby-trapped basement. As things grow more bizarre, he finds himself reexamining the case of The Good Shepherd, which ten years before involved a series of roadside shootings and a rage-against-the-rich manifesto. The killings ceased, and a cult of analysis grew up around the case with a consensus opinion that no one would dream of challenging -- no one, that is, but Dave Gurney.
Mocked even by some who’d been his supporters in previous investigations, Dave realizes that the killer is too clever to ever be found. The only gambit that may make sense is also the most dangerous – to make himself a target and get the killer to come to him.
To survive, Gurney must rely on three allies: his beloved wife Madeleine, impressively intuitive and a beacon of light in the gathering darkness; his de-facto investigative “partner” Jack Hardwick, always ready to spit in authority’s face but wily when it counts; and his son Kyle, who has come back into Gurney’s life with surprising force, love and loyalty.
Displaying all the hallmarks for which the Dave Gurney series is lauded -- well-etched characters, deft black humor, and ingenious deduction that ends in a climactic showdown – Let the Devil Sleep is something more: a reminder of the power of self-belief in a world that contains too little of it.
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The French doors were open.
From where Dave Gurney was standing by the breakfast table, he could see that the last patches of winter snow, like reluctant glaciers, had receded from the open pasture and survived now only in the more recessed and shadowed places in the surrounding woods.
The mixed fragrances of the newly exposed earth and the previous summer’s unmowed hay drifted into the big farmhouse kitchen. These were smells that once had the power to enthrall him. Now they barely touched him.
“You should step outside,” said Madeleine from where she stood at the sink, washing out her cereal bowl. “Step out into the sun. It’s quite glorious.”
“Yes, I can see that,” he said, not moving.
“Sit and have your coffee in one of the Adirondack chairs,” she said, setting the bowl down in the drying rack on the countertop. “You could use some sun.”
“Hmm.” He nodded meaninglessly and took another sip from the mug he was holding. “Is this the same coffee we’ve been using?”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“I didn’t say anything was wrong with it.”
“Yes, it’s the same coffee.”
He sighed. “I think I’m getting a cold. Last couple of days, things haven’t had much taste.”
She rested her hands on the edge of the sink island and looked at him. “You need to get out more. You need to do something.”
“I mean it. You can’t just sit in the house and stare at the wall all day. It will make you sick. It is making you sick. Of course nothing tastes like anything. Have you called Connie Clarke back?”
“When I feel like it.”
He didn’t think it was a feeling he was likely to have in the foreseeable future. That’s just the way he was these days—the way he’d been for the past six months. It was as though, after the injuries he’d suffered at the end of the bizarre Jillian Perry murder case, he had withdrawn from everything connected with normal life—daily tasks, planning, people, phone calls, commitments of any kind. He’d gotten to the point where he liked nothing better than a blank calendar page for the coming month—no appointments, no promises. He’d come to equate withdrawal with freedom.
At the same time, he had the objectivity to know that what was happening to him wasn’t good, that there was no peace in his freedom. His predominant feeling was hostility, not serenity.
To some extent he understood the strange entropy that was unwinding the fabric of his life and isolating him. Or at least he could list what he believed to be its causes. Near the top of the list he’d place the tinnitus he’d been experiencing since he emerged from his coma. In all likelihood it had actually begun two weeks before that, when three shots were fired at him in a small room at nearly point-blank range.
The persistent sound in his ears (which the ear, nose, and throat specialist had explained wasn’t a “sound” at all but rather a neural anomaly that the brain misinterpreted as sound) was hard to describe. The pitch was high, the volume low, the timbre like a softly hissed musical note. The phenomenon was fairly common among rock musicians and combat veterans, was anatomically mysterious, and, apart from occasional cases of spontaneous remission, was generally incurable. “Frankly, Detective Gurney,” the doctor had concluded, “considering what you’ve been through, considering the trauma and the coma, ending up with a mild ringing in your ears is a damn lucky outcome.”
It wasn’t a conclusion Dave could argue with. But it hadn’t made it any easier for him to adjust to the faint whine that enveloped him when all else was silent. It was a particular problem at night. What in daylight might resemble the harmless whistling of a teakettle in a distant room became in the darkness a sinister presence, a cold, metallic atmosphere that encased him.
Then there were the dreams—claustrophobic dreams that recalled his hospital experiences, memories of the constricting cast that had held his arm immobile, the difficulty he’d had in breathing—dreams that left him feeling panicky for long minutes after awakening.
He still had a numb spot on his right forearm close to where the first of his assailant’s bullets had shattered the wrist bone. He checked the spot regularly, sometimes hourly, in hopes that its numbness was receding—or, on bleaker days, in fear that it was spreading. There were occasional, unpredictable, stabbing pains in his side where the second bullet had passed through him. There was also an intermittent tingling—like an itch impervious to scratching—at the center of his hairline where the third bullet had fractured his skull.
Perhaps the most distressing effect of being wounded was the constant need he now felt to be armed. He’d carried a gun on the job because regulations had required it. Unlike most cops, he had no fondness for firearms. And when he left the department after twenty-five years, he left behind, along with his gold detective’s shield, the need to carry a weapon.
Until he was shot.
And now, each morning as he got dressed, the inevitable final item he put on was a small ankle holster holding a .32 Beretta. He hated the emotional need for it. Hated the change in him that required the damn thing to always be with him. He’d hoped the need would gradually diminish, but so far that wasn’t happening.
On top of everything else, it seemed to him that Madeleine had been watching him in recent weeks with a new kind of worry in her eyes—not the fleeting looks of pain and panic he’d seen in the hospital, or the alternating expressions of hopefulness and anxiety that had accompanied his early recovery, but something quieter and deeper—a half-hidden chronic dread, as if she were witnessing something terrible.
Still standing by the breakfast table, he finished his coffee in two large swallows. Then he carried the mug to the sink and let the hot water run into it. He could hear Madeleine down the hall in the mudroom, cleaning out the cat’s litter box. The cat had recently been added to the household at Madeleine’s initiative. Gurney wondered why. Was it to cheer him up? Engage him in the life of a creature other than himself? If so, it wasn’t working. He had no more interest in the cat than in anything else.
“I’m going to take a shower,” he announced.
He heard Madeleine say something in the mudroom that sounded like “Good.” He wasn’t sure that’s what she said, but he didn’t see any point in asking. He went into the bathroom and turned on the hot water.
A long, steamy shower—the energetic spray pelting his back minute after minute from the base of his neck down to the base of his spine, relaxing muscles, opening capillaries, clearing mind and sinuses—produced in him a feeling of well-being that was both wonderful and fleeting.
By the time he’d dressed again and returned to the French doors, a jangled sense of unease was already beginning to reassert itself. Madeleine was outside now on the bluestone patio. Beyond the patio was the small section of the pasture that had, through two years of frequent mowings, come to resemble a lawn. Clad in a rough barn jacket, orange sweatpants, and green rubber boots, she was working her way along the edge of the flagstones, stamping enthusiastically down on a spade every six inches, creating a clear demarcation, digging out the encroaching roots of the wild grasses. She gave him a look that seemed at first to convey an invitation for him to join in the project, then disappointment at his obvious reluctance to do so.
Irritated, he purposely looked away, his gaze drifting down the hillside to his green tractor parked by the barn.
She followed his line of sight. “I was wondering, could you use the tractor to smooth out the ruts?”
“Where we park the cars.”
“Sure . . .” he said hesitantly. “I guess.”
“It doesn’t have to be done right this minute.”
“Hmm.” All traces of equanimity from his shower were now gone, as his train of thought shifted to the peculiar tractor problem he’d discovered a month ago and had largely put out of his mind—except for those paranoid moments when it drove him crazy.
Madeleine appeared to be studying him. She smiled, put down her spade, and walked around to the side door, evidently so she could take off her boots in the mudroom before coming into the kitchen.
He took a deep breath and stared at the tractor, wondering for the twentieth time about the mysteriously jammed brake. As if acting in malignant harmony, a dark cloud slowly obliterated the sun. Spring, it seemed, had come and gone.
A Huge Favor for Connie Clarke
The Gurney property was situated on the saddle of a ridge at the end of a rural road outside the Catskill village of Walnut Crossing. The old farmhouse was set on the gentle southern slope of the saddle. An overgrown pasture separated it from a large red barn and a deep pond ringed by cattails and willows, backed by a beech, maple, and black-cherry forest. To the north a second pasture rose along the ridgeline toward a pine forest and a string of small abandoned bluestone quarries that looked out over the next valley.
The weather had gone through the kind of dramatic about-face that was far more common in the Catskill Mountains than in New York City, where Dave and Madeleine had come from. The sky had become a featureless slaty blanket drawn over the hills. The temperature seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees in ten minutes.
A superfine sleet was beginning to fall. Gurney closed the French doors. As he pulled them tight to secure the latches, he felt a piercing pain in the right side of his stomach. A moment later another followed. This was something he was used to, nothing that three ibuprofens couldn’t suppress. He headed for the bathroom medicine cabinet, thinking that the worst part of it wasn’t the physical discomfort, the worst part was the feeling of vulnerability, the realization that the only reason he was alive was that he’d been lucky.
Luck was not a concept he liked. It seemed to him to be the fool’s substitute for competence. Random chance had saved his life, but random chance was not a trustworthy ally. He knew younger men who believed in good luck, relied on good luck, thought it was something they owned. But at the age of forty-eight, Gurney knew damn well that luck is only luck, and the invisible hand that flips the coin is as cold as a corpse.
The pain in his side also reminded him that he’d been meaning to cancel his upcoming appointment with his neurologist in Binghamton. He’d had four appointments with the man in less than four months, and they seemed increasingly pointless, unless the only point was to send Gurney’s insurance company another bill.
He kept that phone number with his other medical numbers in his den desk. Instead of continuing into the bathroom for the ibuprofen, he went into the den to make the call. As he was entering the number, he was picturing the doctor: a preoccupied man in his late thirties, with wavy black hair already receding, small eyes, girlish mouth, weak chin, silky hands, manicured fingernails, expensive loafers, dismissive manner, and no visible interest in anything that Gurney thought or felt. The three women who inhabited his sleek, contemporary reception area seemed perpetually confused and irritated by the doctor, by his patients, and by the data on their computer screens.
The phone was answered on the fourth ring with an impatience verging on contempt. “Dr. Huffbarger’s office.”
“This is David Gurney, I have an upcoming appointment that I’d—”
The sharp voice cut him off. “Hold on, please.”
In the background he could hear a raised male voice that he thought for a moment belonged to an angry patient reeling off a long, urgent complaint—until a second voice asked a question and a third voice joined the fray in a similar tone of loud, fast-talking indignation—and Gurney realized that what he was hearing was the cable news channel that made sitting in Huffbarger’s waiting room insufferable.
“Hello?” said Gurney with a definite edge. “Anybody there? Hello?”
“Just a minute, please.”
The voices that he found so abrasively empty-headed continued in the background. He was about to hang up when the receptionist’s voice returned.
“Dr. Huffbarger’s office, can I help you?”
“Yes. This is David Gurney. I have an appointment I want to cancel.”
“A week from today at eleven-forty a.m.”
“Spell your name, please.”
He was about to question how many people had appointments on that same day at 11:40, but he spelled his name instead.
“And when do you wish to reschedule it?”
“I don’t. I’m just canceling it.”
“You’ll need to reschedule it.”
“I can reschedule Dr. Huffbarger’s appointments, not cancel them.”
“But the fact is—”
She interrupted, sounding exasperated. “An existing appointment can’t be removed from the system without inserting a revised date. That’s the doctor’s policy.”
Gurney could feel his lips tightening with anger, way too much anger. “I don’t really care much about his system or his policy,” he said slowly, stiffly. “Consider my appointment canceled.”
“There will be a missed-appointment charge.”
“No there won’t. And if Huffbarger has a problem with that, tell him to call me.” He hung up, tense, feeling a twinge of chagrin at his childish twisting of the neurologist’s name.
He stared out the den window at the high pasture without really seeing it.
What the hell’s the matter with me?
A jab of pain in his right side offered a partial answer. It also reminded him that he’d been on his way to the medicine cabinet when he’d made his appointment-canceling detour.
He returned to the bathroom. He didn’t like the look of the man who looked back at him from the mirror on the cabinet door. His forehead was lined with worry, his skin colorless, his eyes dull and tired.
He knew he had to get back to his daily exercise regimen—the sets of push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups that had once kept him in better shape than most men half his age. But now the man in the mirror was looking every bit of forty-eight, and he wasn’t happy about it. He wasn’t happy about the daily messages of mortality his body was sending him. He wasn’t happy about his descent from mere introversion into isolation. He wasn’t happy about . . . anything.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was lucky enough to be an early reader (and fan) of John Verdon's debut novel - Think of a Numb3r. (my review) I love getting in on the ground floor of a new series. His second book - Shut Your Eyes Tight (my review) - was just as good and proved that Verdon wasn't a one book wonder. The latest book in his Dave Gurney series - Let the Devil Sleep - was fantastic! John Verdon just gets better and better. Retired NYPD Homicide Detective Dave Gurney has spent the last six months recovering from gunshot wounds sustained during his last attempt to bring down a serial killer. Yes, he's retired - but can't help himself - puzzles intrigue him and unsolved cases still call his name. He had the highest solve rate in the NYPD's history when he retired. But this time, he just can't seem to shake things off - he's out of sorts, short tempered with his ever patient wife Madeleine, can't stop worrying about his lingering symptoms and has no interest in doing anything. When Connie, an old journalist friend contacts him to ask a favour, he agrees out of a sense of obligation. Her daughter Kim is doing a series of interviews with families of the victims of a serial killer dubbed The Good Shepherd. Ten years ago, the killer targeted the wealthy, specifically those driving black Mercedes. The case remains unsolved and Kim would like to have him look over what she's doing with his cop's eye and give her feedback. But a lot occurs in that one day - there's more going on with Kim than she initially mentioned. And the interviews and files on The Good Shepherd pique Gurney's interest. It is Madeleine who notes that Gurney has done more in a day than he has in months - and he's not worrying about his symptoms every five minutes. Slowly, but surely, Dave is hooked again. He believes the initial investigation was flawed. In the beginning of the series, I wasn't sure what I thought about Gurney. But, as the series grows, so does Dave. This time out, we get to meet his son Kyle, with whom Dave has a difficult relationship. Verdon explores this dynamic well, letting us get a view of Gurney beneath the controlled exterior. Gurney's enigmatic wife Madeleine continually intrigues me. Her love of nature, colour and life are in stark contrast to Gurney's pursuit of killers. What makes this marriage work? Verdon allows to see into this relationship a little more every time. Madeline is still my favourite supporting character. Another recurring character is Detective Jack Hartwick. The testy relationship between Jack and Dave is entertaining. I did find it hard to warm up to Kim; I found her to be manipulative and self centered. So, the characters are great. What about the plot? Well, this is where Verdon shines. The plotting is impeccable, complex and devious. There are two plot lines running simultaneously - could they connected? Gurney's reasoning and thought processes were fascinating. I enjoyed the matching of wits between the FBI, their psychologist consultant and Dave. We get to reopen the case with Dave as he explores past files. However, the past is not content to stay buried and the tension, thrills and stakes are heightened as the killer puts Dave squarely in his line of sight. I had absolutely no idea whodunit until the last few pages. I love not being able to figure out the case until the end. Just a great series. You could read any of the books as a stand alone, but I bet you'll be hunting down the other two!
Slowly recovering from his injuries sustained in his previous case, Dave Gurney is sucked into a new case. It starts out as a favor, then becomes therapy and finally an obsession. For the reader it becomes harder and harder to put it down. The plot, the character development and the writing are excellent. If you like well written, suspenseful mysteries, this a read for you.
The best yet by John Verdon! I could not put it down.
His best book yet! I hated for it to end. His characters are well developed and continue to grow with each new book. He is maturing as a writer. I'm ready for the next one!
It was amazing.
In his third appearance, retired NYPD detective David Gurney probably wishes he never answered the telephone. By doing so, he ends up in a most precarious situation when a journalist who had written a laudatory profile of him when he was a top homicide detective asks him to look over her daughter’s shoulder. The daughter has a chance to have her thesis idea converted into a TV series: “Orphans of the Murder,” a series of interviews with the families of the victims of a killer known as The Good Shepherd. The homicides had taken place a decade earlier. Gurney reluctantly agrees, but then becomes more and more involved in the case, which he believes was mishandled in the original investigation. Of course, as he continues to look into it and raise questions, he makes no friends in the establishment, especially the FBI which had assumed control of the case. And complicating his efforts is the Good Shepherd’s attempts to forestall and kill the TV series. The novel begins as Gurney is slowly recovering from three gunshot wounds, one to his head, as a result of his last exploit. And, of course, no Gurney story would leave him uninjured as a result of his determination to solve a case. While the plot is logical and straightforward, a lot of the writing is repetitive, especially Gurney’s relations with his second wife, Madeleine, and his son, Kyle. That said, the story moves forward at a swift pace and has an unforeseen conclusion, and it is highly recommended.
Quite slow plot development. I was spoiled by Vernon's Think of a Number and Shut Your Eyes Tight. This third in the Dave Gurney series yawned in comparison to his first two. It was not enthralling and failed to capture the intensity as the other books.
Author John Verdon’s third novel, LET THE DEVIL SLEEP, is comprised of many interesting elements—a compelling story, a population of vivid characters, and an opaque and dangerous plot whose literary waters only become clearer in the novel’s closing pages. All the earmarks of a fabulous read! For me, however, above all else, is the character of David Gurney and how he developed from the debut novel, THINK OF A NUMBER, navigating his way through SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT, and finally culminating with LET THE DEVIL SLEEP. In this third of a series tracking down serial killers, main character David Gurney—a highly decorated, retired NYPD homicide detective—reluctantly agrees to take a young television reporter under his wing as she interviews survivors of the victims targeted by The Good Shepherd, a vicious serial killer. This novel is about two journeys—finding the killer and Gurney finding himself. A very good read!
This is the 3rd in a series about retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney. Like the others, the plot grabs you and has you trying to figure out who the killer is, and you can't put the book down until you've finished it. John Verdon is an author who can enthrall and tantalize. This is a must read!
There was a large cast of characters and lots of overlapping storylines, but they all revolved around the Good Shepherd case and Kim’s interviewing the families for RAM-TV, kind of a cross between Fox News and TMZ. There was so much going on and I loved the fast pace of the book. I love this series and highly recommend it.
I like John Verdon. He writes well with good characters and plenty of action. However, his plots are not always first rate. His first book (Pick A Number) was his best. Dave Gurney is a methodical ex-detective who always figures it out, and I just love his interaction with Hardwick. I enjoyed this book.
If you have read the other books by this author, you'll enjoy this one.
I learned something this week: John Verdon is a heck of a writer. I read LET THE DEVIL SLEEP in two days, which is saying a lot, because it's a BIG book, running 449 pages. It was just hard to stop. This is Mr. Verdon's third novel, and third in the continuing adventures of retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney. And now, God help me, I'm going to have to find and read the first two, THINK OF A NUMBER and SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT. LET THE DEVIL SLEEP begins with Gurney at home, lamenting the gunshot injury that ended his career, when he's asked to help a passionate young journalist with a TV project. Ten years earlier, you see, a killer calling himself the Good Shepherd blasted six people off the highway and was never caught. The journalist, a young lady named Kim Corazon, plans to interview the families of the victims to examine the toll the killings have taken on their lives. Gurney isn't much interested until it appears someone is trying to scare he and Kim off the project, and the FBI is stonewalling all attempts to get details of their failed investigation. When he's pushed, Dave Gurney pushes back, and pushes hard. He's soon committed not only to assisting Kim, but reopening the ten-year-old Good Shepherd case, and finding out where the FBI went wrong. We meet some great characters here: Another ex-cop driven more-than-half mad by his obsession with the Shepherd. A psychoanalyst whose stellar reputation is threatened by the reopening of the case. A couple of detectives who still value truth over propriety. And family members of the Shepherd's old victims, some angry and some despondent, but all still struggling to brings their shattered lives back into balance. LET THE DEVIL SLEEP is above all a mystery novel, but John Verdon's explorations into Dave Gurney's character and relationship with his wife, his son, and his fate make this a powerful novel as well. Bottom line: I'm now a Verdon fan. I'll be eagerly awaiting his next book.
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Awesome ! !! Couldn't put it down
This is a weak book, unfortunately. The author writes well and the puzzle is interesting, but why the antagonist acts as he does is never explained. Why does he try to scare the girl off of her quest; why not kill her, as he had done to others, multiple times in the past, and then daily toward the end of the book, or just leave her alone? Made no sense to me. The weakest of the first three Gurney books.
Although this is the third book of the Dave Gurney series and although many references are made to events that happened in the previous two installments, they don't distruct from the thorough enjoyment of a real thriller. The writing is intelligent, the plot is well laid out, the characters are flesh and blood and the denouement is logical. What more can one ask for? Waiting for the next Gurney thriller.
This book was the first I've read of this author. I'm going to read them all. I give this book 5 stars because it's excellent. Read it! You won't be sorry.
seemed slow to me
Worth the read.
Characters very interesting Exciting plot Could not put this book down
I liked how this was an intellectual approach to solving a crime and not the usual gore and shoot now - ask questions later. I liked that the book had more than 500 pages.
Good story, but every occasion reminded the main character of an event in his life....too, too much of that. Very interesting otherwise