Retired NYC police detective Dave Gurney is battling boredom when he's called on once again to investigate a crime that police are not having luck solving. A young woman, from a very wealthy family, was beheaded on her wedding day. The suspected murderer escaped out a window and hasn't been found. Gurney agrees to commit to two weeks of investigation, knowing his wife is opposed to his becoming involved at all. And it doesn't take long for Gurney to discover that all the players in this game, including the victim, are more than a little off-center.
John Verdon's first novel, THINK OF A NUMBER, was one of my favorite reads of 2010. And all the qualities that made his debut wonderful are present in his sophomore novel, SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT. Those familiar with THINK OF A NUMBER will recognize his still of dual perspectives. While both written in the third person limited, one takes the perspective of the protagonist while the other looks through the eyes of the antagonist. The latter perspective allowing only enough of a picture to intensify the suspense of the novel.
The plot deals with a challenging, complex series of mysteries. The motive for the murder is a mystery, as is the escape of the murderer. As Gurney investigates the individuals tied to the victim, more mysteries arise, weaving a deadly web of motives and means.
Beyond his intriguing plot components, Verdon's created richly, dysfunctional characters. Gurney and his wife struggle to find a life together after retiring to the country. Madeleine Gurney points out that they are in the same geographic location without being together. However, if Gurney turns his back on the puzzles and challenges of police work, as Madeleine would prefer, he finds little satisfaction in life. Their struggles add an extra dimension to the novel.
Verdon has a gift when it comes to creating alluring antagonists. Readers are drawn to the evident evil by the both the mystery and the intellect. Verdon's antagonists are quite cerebral and it's fascinating to delve into the thoughts and rationales of these monsters. Readers will be hard pressed to empathize with the antagonist, but may likely see recognizable sparks or glimmers of familiarity. For after all, how many of us are truly without any evil at all?
SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT offers readers a multitude of challenges. There is a puzzling who-done-it mystery, myriad examples of conflict inviting examination of one's views and beliefs, and Verdon also challenges his reader to step out of the comfort zone, to feel and experience through his imagery:
"A blood-soaked room would slam him in the face. Later, stripped and sanitized, the same room would lay a cold hand on his heart, reminding him that at the center of the universe there was a boundless emptiness. A vacuum with a temperature of absolute zero."
While at times there were details that could have been left out without harm to the story, examples such as this leave impressions that don't easily clear from the brain.
SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT delivers an exciting, challenging and fulfilling reading experience. Verdon has written another smashing crime novel. You don't want to miss it.
SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT is available from Crown Publishers in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-307-71789-4) and on audiobook from Random House Audio, narrated by Scott Brick. My review is part of the SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT blog tour with TLC Book Tours. You can see the entire tour with links to other reviews of the book here.
As part of the blog tour, I am fortunate to be able to give away a copy of SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT to one lucky reader in the US or Canada. So, if you're as excited about this book as I hope you are, enter to win a copy. I'll take entries through next Wednesday, August 3rd. Just complete the form below for your chance to win. Good luck!