Standard isolated-inn thriller with notes of horror and hints of the supernatural.
The biggest and ultimately unsolved mystery at the core of the latest in Verdon’s Dave Gurney thriller series is why anyone would pay $1,000 a night to stay at Wolf Lake Lodge, where the plot plays out. Shortly after this place in the remote Adirondacks became an inn in the early 1900s, wolves devoured its founder on the property. Raving about a hawk that knows evil, a grizzled man with an ax now roams the grounds, which stand in the shadow of two mountains, Devil’s Fang and Cemetery Ridge. Cellphones fade, wolves howl, and up in the attic there’s a terrifying tableau. All this, plus the threat of "a real road closer" storm, cannot deter Gurney, a retired NYPD homicide detective, from pursuing a case at the lodge. No wonder. The crimes are unusual indeed: four men, from different parts of the country, allegedly committed suicide after experiencing the same harrowing nightmare involving the ubiquitous wolves. (As one character acknowledges, the idea of a shared nightmare also occurs in Richard Condon’s thriller The Manchurian Candidate). Is it possible that the hypnotist who treated all four men is responsible for planting the dreams? Or were the deaths really murders disguised as suicides? As his case quickly expands, Gurney uncovers clues that suggest the deaths may be linked to terrorist activity. It also turns out that three of the victims were virulent homophobes who, years ago, had bullied a gay youth at summer camp. As hallways creak and sleet lashes at the windows, Gurney’s wife, who accompanies him on the trip, shrieks when she sees in the hotel bathtub the body of a young love who years ago drowned in the lake. At the center of the natural and emotional turbulence, Gurney remains steady, methodical, and scientific as he pulls together the case’s disparate strands.
The case is a bit cluttered, Gurney’s drawn-out ratiocinations slow the pace at the end, and Verdon’s straightforward prose doesn’t effectively evoke the tale’s dark setting. Still, the notion of shared nightmares holds the reader start to finish.