Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Shut Your Eyes Tight
David Gurney is a retired New York City homicide detective who has moved upstate with his wife Madeleine to a fifty-acre country paradise complete with surrounding woods, a pond, and plenty of solitude. But retirement comes easier to some than to others and when Dave is asked to review an ongoing murder investigation, he can’t resist a closer look at the evidence that has been gathered thus far. Much to Madeleine’s chagrin, he agrees to serve as a consultant, but in order to appease her, limits his involvement to a two-week interval.
His client is the wealthy mother of a beautiful young woman, Jillian, who was gruesomely murdered on her wedding day — just a short while after saying “I do” to a well-known psychiatrist and author. Her body was discovered in a cottage located on the estate owned by her new husband, Scott Ashton, which had been occupied by a Mexican gardener named Hector Flores, who is now missing, along with the wife of one of Ashton’s closest neighbors. Ashton was allegedly serving as a svengali of sorts to Flores.
Ashton is a controversial figure who runs an exclusive private school for girls who are sex offenders and sociopaths, offering an unconventional approach to addressing their disorders, insisting that “treatment” is not offered and no records are maintained. Jillian’s own mother describes her daughter as a sociopath who was a student at the school, prompting Dave to question how Ashton became romantically entangled with her. As he studies the steps completed in the investigation thus far, he realizes that the crime could not have been committed in the manner the local authorities have described and many of their assumptions prove unfounded. But if the crime was not carried out in accordance with the conclusions they have drawn to date, who did kill Jillian? And why? And if Dave’s suspicions turn out to be accurate, there may be a serial murderer on the loose. Can he convince his colleagues and the local District Attorney that they must follow up on significant leads in order to prevent more young women from losing their lives? And can Dave and Madeleine’s marriage survive the strain caused by Dave’s involvement in another case, especially when his role invites danger into their idyllic and peaceful retirement retreat?
Two characteristics distinguish first-rate thrillers from lesser attempts: Plot twists and turns that compel the story forward and keep the reader guessing about the outcome, and interesting and believable characters for whom the intrigue has consequences. Shut Your Eyes Tight has both.
The plot involves a killing that lead character Dave Gurney concludes could not have been carried out in the manner assumed by the local authorities whose investigation has stalled. The more Gurney contemplates the evidence amassed prior to his involvement, the more questions he asks. And every lead takes him deeper into the workings of a dark and twisted underworld where nothing is as it appears on the surface and a dysfunctional family with a sordid history is at its epicenter.
Books that feature one central troubled character surrounded by two-dimensional foils bore me to death. They’re about as interesting to me as watching TV at the airport.
~ Author John Verdon
Gurney is a quintessential detective who has retired and moved to the country in search of a quieter life, but is forced to acknowledge that he get neither the thrill of the hunt nor the intellectual stimulation it provides out of his system. As soon as he agrees to assess the investigative work completed thus far, spreading documents and exhibits out on the dining room table to facilitate his review, it is clear that he is hooked and is not going to be able to resist the temptation to get involved in the case. But besides being a top-notch detective, Gurney is also a man who loves his wife deeply, even though marriage is often not easy for him. Author John Verdon’s quietly eloquent and nuanced depiction of a man trying to balance his insatiable curiosity and compulsion to exercise the skills he has honed over the years against his devotion to his wife and the promise he made to her that their lives would be simpler yet richer in retirement makes for fascinating reading. Equally interesting is Verdon’s delicate construction of Madeleine’s character, a woman who cherishes the solitude she has found in her country home and abhors having it disrupted by her husband’s inability to fully retire and enjoy their life together. Still, because she loves him and wants him to be happy, she tolerates his limited-term foray back into the homicide investigation — to a point. Gurney’s efforts push Madeleine dangerously close to her breaking point and the result is an intriguing exploration of a long-term marriage that strains under the weight of each partner’s needs and desires.
Shut Your Eyes Tight is the second novel from Verdon featuring the Gurneys who were introduced in his debut work, Think of a Number. Although there are a few references to the case Gurney investigated in that book, Shut Your Eyes Tight can be read and enjoyed without first reading Verdon’s earlier work.
With just two published books to his credit, Verdon, a retired advertising executive who, like the Gurneys, left New York City to reside in the upstate New York countryside, has distinguished himself with his tautly constructed, multi-layered mysteries. Shut Your Eyes Tight will keep readers from shutting their own eyes tight, instead reading well into the night with the doors locked and all of the lights on until reaching the very last page to see if Gurney does, in fact, solve a crime that appears at the outset to be unsolvable.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Shut Your Eyes Tight free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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