At the end of chapter 2 of Peter Pan Must Die, the new Novel by John Verdon, one of the characters makes a bold statement as he tries to convince his friend, former NYPD Detective Dave Gurney, to take on one more investigation:
“The Spalter case has everything — horror, gangsters, politics, big money, big lies, and maybe even a little bit of incest. You’re gonna fuckin’ love it.”
As a reader, my first thought was: Wow, what a promise. And my second thought: Would Verdon live up to the promise?
After reading the last fifty pages today, I can answer that with a definitive yes!
The 440-page novel from Crown Publishers (Random House) is the fourth in Verdon’s series of books following Detective Gurney, but you don’t have to read the other three to jump on. Verdon does a good job establishing Gurney’s world and backstory without making the reader seem like he has missed something. Before long, the reader is comfortably following Detective Gurney’s investigation of a seemingly impossible murder – impossible in the sense that the deadly shooting seems unlikely to have happened the way prosecutors say it went down. Further investigation uncovers more oddities, including a possible cover-up of obvious evidence to the contrary.
Gurney questions everything – and I mean everything. He reviews his list of questions several times with his cohorts, sometimes annoyingly so, saving up the answers for the end. Readers, in that regard, will have to be patient. But, in truth, the answers to everything are not as far away as you may think. In fact, if you put your mind to it, Verdon allows the reader to know everything Gurney knows every step of the way. It’s just a matter of piecing it all together in the end, reminiscent of those old Ellery Queen TV episodes.
Despite a lull in the middle, where not a whole lot happens other than more annoying pondering by Gurney, Verdon sprinkles in enough mystery and intrigue to keep the pages turning. More important, perhaps, he delivers a high-octane finish with plenty of action, drama and bloodshed at the scene of a county fair.
If there is a major complaint it is that the antagonist, uber assassin Petros Panikos, aka Peter Pan, seems to come to a rather easy (albeit grisly) defeat. For a professional killer that’s baffled international police for decade, one would expect him to put up more of a fight (although he certainly does go out with a bang).
Overall, Verdon comes through on the promise he made in chapter 2 with an action-filled ending, making this read more than worthwhile.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.