SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT
By John Verdon
Dave Guerney's second outing follows the same lines as his debut, Think of a Number. Guerney, a celebrated homicide detective whose wife wants him to stay retired, is tantalized by a seemingly impossible crime scene. In this case, a bridegroom enters a tiny cottage at his wedding ceremony to discover his new bride has been decapitated. It's all on videotape, yet the person who the victim went to see is never seen leaving the cottage.
Verdon's formula continues with Guerney promising his patient, passive-aggressive wife that he isn't cheating on her with his love of detection and that the quiet country life she adores is just what he wants as well. The reader knows Guerney's lying the minute he meets the psychiatric genius who was the bridegroom. He wants to step in and solve the case.
This is a great set-up. Unfortunately, the book is more than 500 bloated pages of Guerney's doubts, his conflicts with his wife and the official police investigating the case, and recapping the little that is known over and over and over again. Guerney, the great NYPD detective, is taken in by the promise of fame and fortune by an art collector who he never even Googles before going to the stranger's house. He keeps crucial information to himself, pretends to be Tony Soprano on an unauthorized interrogation and manages once again to be in jeopardy at the climax. His wife turns on a dime with no reason given. If Verdon had stronger editing and worked on the show, don't tell, this could have been an even stronger novel than his debut. If Verdon cuts the recaps and unnecessary information (a paragraph devoted to an open window late in the story kept me wondering who was going to come through it), and builds up the connection between the motivation in the case and his own emotional journey, the result would be fantastic.
Verdon has a great character with the potential for a fascinating personal journey through his wishes and dreams as they are shown through his personal and professional pursuits. But for that journey to take place, the formula of the first two books in the series needs to be left behind. Verdon has shown he can do this in such scenes as the initial class sessions in this second outing. That's the Dave Guerney who is most believable as a top cop who won't let go of a murder until it's solved.
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