cover image The Viper: A Dave Gurney Novel

The Viper: A Dave Gurney Novel

John Verdon. Counterpoint, $29 (400p) ISBN 978-1-64009-585-4

Verdon’s stellar eighth mystery featuring retired NYPD detective Gurney (after 2021’s On Harrow Hill) captivates from the first page. Gurney’s obsession with solving crimes has exacted a considerable personal toll: his carelessness on a recent case led to the accidental death of his young son, and his continued work after retirement has put his marriage on the rocks. Despite her misgivings about his involvement in such inquiries, Gurney’s wife, Madeleine, asks him to entertain a plea from her friend Emma Martin. Emma, a therapist, is convinced that her client, former tennis star Ziko Slade, has been wrongfully convicted of killing a would-be blackmailer, whom he allegedly knocked unconscious, decapitated with an axe, and buried on his own property. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Ziko, including witness testimony, DNA, and fingerprints, Gurney’s initial probe brings him around to share Emma’s doubts, and further digging threatens to put the ex-detective in grave danger. The investigation takes several gasp-worthy turns, and Verdon brings it all to an immensely satisfying conclusion. This cements Verdon’s reputation as one of the best contemporary fair play mystery novelists at work. Agent: Lucy Carson, Friedrich. (July)