White River BurningReviews
"John Verdon writes grown-up detective novels, by which I mean stories with intelligent plots, well-developed characters and crimes that have social consequences. WHITE RIVER BURNING, featuring the author’s brainy gumshoe-for-hire, Dave Gurney, checks all these boxes. The primary crime is the “coldblooded assassination” of a police officer, who’s picked off by a professional sharpshooter. The authorities in the town of White River are supposedly knocking themselves out to solve the case, but the widow has her doubts and asks Gurney to conduct his own inquiries. So when there’s a second sniper killing of a cop, he suspects a link to the victims’ secret investigation of corruption in their department.
Upstate New York locales like White River can be home to a remarkable assortment of social and political factions. Although the main industry is a prison, this seemingly bucolic place attracts enough moneyed weekenders to support a poets’ colony and some serious real-estate investors. Verdon indulges his satirical impulses with takedowns of painters who create “burgundy cosmologies” with beet juice and charities like LORA, an animal rescue group that prides itself on spiritually bonding with its four-footed clients. “We give animals friendship,” one devotee explains. “We have conversations.”
On a deeper level, it seems to Gurney that White River, like many other towns, is “suffering from industrial collapse, agricultural relocation, a shrinking middle-class population, political mismanagement, the spreading heroin epidemic, troubled schools, eroding infrastructure.” Verdon doesn’t address all these issues, concentrating instead on the racial antagonisms that are fueled by them. Half the populace blames demonstrations by the Black Defense Alliance for stirring up hatred for local law enforcement after a traffic-stop fatality. The other half blames the blamers, creating one of those hate-fests that feed on their own furies. While keeping inside the lines of a classic whodunit plot, Verdon enriches the formula with a probing analysis of the way a community rips itself apart.” —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
"In Verdon’s sixth series outing (after Wolf Lake) featuring retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney, the upstate New York town of White River is reeling after a police shooting claims the life of an unarmed black man. During resulting protests, a police officer is murdered and the obvious suspect is a member of the Black Defense Alliance (BDA). An anxious district attorney brings a reluctant Gurney into the investigation, which has pit a law-and-order police chief and his department against the BDA. A plot line that includes motives of hate, ambition, justice, and power also addresses many issues of social concern today: dystopian media outlets, police corruption, a racial divide, and an economically distressed town doing its best to survive. Characters, especially that of Dave Gurney, are believable … and compelling. And while the story involves police corruption, it also includes several good, honest police officers who are disturbed by what is happening and will work to stop it. VERDICT Verdon’s gripping, fast-paced police procedural will appeal to crime fiction readers with an interest in current events who enjoy David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, and Carrie Smith.” —Library Journal
"Once again, the bucolic upstate retirement of NYPD homicide ace Dave Gurney is disrupted by a grisly murder spree. In the sixth installment of this series of mystery-thrillers ... the specter of racial tension comes to roost near the woodsy farmhouse in Walnut Crossing, New York, that Gurney and his wife call home. A petty-minded district attorney with big-ticket ambitions wants Gurney to look into the shooting death of a police officer in the nearby town of White River. Because the officer was white and the incident took place at a demonstration marking the one-year anniversary of a police shooting of an unarmed black motorist, Gurney must deploy all his urbane discretion, implacable concentration, and innate logic to work his way through thickets of bad faith and ill will ... All he can count on for reliable backup are cool-headed White River policeman Mark Torres and short-fused but bombastically-effective private investigator Jack Hardwick, a holdover from previous novels ... It's easy to see why this series is so popular, blending as it does the hard-boiled social observations of noir fiction with the inscrutable pleasures of classic "whodunit" puzzle-solving. —Kirkus
"Verdon is a gifted writer and storyteller ... he definitely nails the zeitgeist." —Booklist
"Outstanding ... The twisty plot builds up to a logical and satisfying reveal. Verdon expertly combines a baffling whodunit with thoughtfully drawn characters in this timely examination of racial tensions." —Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)