‘Let the Devil Sleep,’ by John Verdon

Let the Devil Sleep

He’d long ago discovered that one way to get to a solution was to step away from the problem and go on to something else. The brain, relieved of the pressure to move in a particular channel, often finds its own way. As one of his born-and-bred Delaware County neighbors had once said, “The beagle can’t catch the rabbit till you let him off the leash.”

I continue to work my way through John Verdon’s very satisfying (to me at least) series of Dave Gurney mysteries. Dave, as you may recall, is a decorated New York police detective, retired. Now he lives on a farm in the Catskill Mountains with his wife Madeleine, in a relationship both loving and full of tension. She loves nature and growing things, and “lives in the moment.” He never feels alive unless he’s solving a complex murder mystery – which is why his retirement has involved one unofficial investigation after another, often stepping on the toes of the real authorities.

In Let the Devil Sleep, Dave is recovering from a fight to the death in the previous book which left him with both emotional and physical trauma. Then he hears from an old acquaintance, a female journalist. She asks him for a favor – to “look over the shoulder” of her college-age daughter, who is working on a journalism project. Would he give her some pointers? He soon understands that the real, underlying request is for him to help the girl investigate the unsolved case of “the Good Shepherd,” a killer who shot six people to death in their cars on lonely roads. They were all driving the same expensive model automobile. The killer released a “manifesto,” a fanatical screed against greed, vowing to wipe out all the greedy people on earth. Dave immediately suspects the manifesto is a smokescreen, which means that the working theory of all the investigators, including the FBI, has been wrongheaded all these years.

Another reason his friend asked him to help her daughter, he suspects, is to protect her. And that protection will be needed, because she, and the families of the earlier victims, and Dave and his family as well, will soon face assaults from a killer who might be – Dave fears – smarter than he is himself.

I get unusual satisfaction from the Dave Gurney books. That may be, I suspect, because I identify with him to some extent. So your response may be different. But these stories draw me in.

I got some political hints in this one, especially in frequent references to a fictional cable news network which looks very much like a stand-in for FOX. If that’s the purpose, it seems to me somewhat unjust, blaming the sins of many on one organization. But that element wasn’t bald-faced enough to really annoy me.

Cautions for intense situations, adult themes, and a lot of bad language. Otherwise highly recommended.

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