Verdon’s successful series—featuring thoughtful, puzzle-solving retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney—adds another chapter with this dark tale of a demented contract killer who becomes entangled with a rich, but disturbed, family.
Kay Spalter is in prison for killing her real estate–mogul husband, Carl. But Jack Hardwick, a former New York State police investigator, is out to spring her from her cell. Not because he thinks she's innocent; no, Hardwick hopes to prove police misconduct. Gurney’s crude, foulmouthed investigator friend lost his job after assisting Gurney with another case, and now he’s knocking on his buddy’s door asking for help on the Spalter situation. Initially, Gurney isn’t interested, but once he dips his toe into the mechanics of the investigation, he starts seeing all kinds of things that make no sense: crime scenes that fail to add up, missing witnesses, people whose stories contradict the evidence presented in court, and suspects that include a drugged-out daughter and a brother who maintains a questionable online church. When the lawyer going to bat for Kay Spalter turns up dead, it becomes evident that Gurney and Hardwick are dealing with something much larger than a mishandled case. Soon, the two men and Hardwick’s stunning police-officer girlfriend, Esti, are on the trail of an insane international hit man. Gurney’s fans like the detective’s patient unraveling of complex puzzles, as well as his unflappable confidence. However, those new to sidekick Hardwick’s brashness and lack of charm may wonder why Gurney would work with him. Verdon has constructed a taut, fascinating tale, but the story gets messy in its final chapters when the retired cop rejects sensible suggestions to bring in the authorities in favor of handling the killer on his own terms, bringing the case to a terrible conclusion.
Gurney’s and Hardwick’s outsized egos interfere with good judgment in this otherwise smoothly written novel.