Sorry John the first one was better…
At the end of every meeting of our Sequoya mystery book discussion we give the novel we’ve discussed a numerical grade, 1 low and 10 high. John Verdon’s debut Think of a Number wowed our group and everybody (even the not easily impressed) gave it either a 9 or 10. There was no reason not to read his follow up, Shut Your Eyes Tight, but after finishing it the other day it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for a new series. Here’s why.
Much like Think of a Number, Verdon’s SYET starts out with a bizarre crime scene. A young bride Jillian has been murdered (beheaded no less) right before her own wedding ceremony. “Retired” detective Dave Gurney has been hired by the bride’s mother as a consultant to help solve the case. This is much to his wife Madeline’s dismay because she wants him to take bike rides and garden, not be involved in yet another murder investigation. The bride’s husband Scott Ashton, a renowned and controversial child psychiatrist, is first to find the grisly scene and all signs point to the newly hired Mexican gardener/assistant Hector Lopez as the assailant, but Hector is missing and there are no clues to his whereabouts. What bothered me most of all right away in this book is that no one questioned the husband and his motives right away, the first rule in homicide cases is to always investigate the family first, at least that’s what I’ve read and seen on TV cop shows.
Gurney’s instincts lead him down a path to find out who Hector really was and his motive for murdering not so innocent Jillian. Jillian’s sexual deviant past and Scott’s treatment facility of sexual abusers soon becomes the main focus of the investigation and eventually leads them all the way to involvement with Italian Mafioso. Things get worse when the mystery killer decides to leave a little message for Gurney at his house and now Madeline is really mad, her husband’s post retirement career as a consultant has made her afraid for her own life. Again like his first book, Verdon ends SYET with a dramatic final scene that exposes the murderer and puts Gurney and his detective sidekick Jack Hardwick in a kill or be killed situation. Let’s just say it’s not the gardener.
Much like Think of a Number, there are endless plot turns in this story and that’s what keeps you reading, but often the dialogue between Gurney and his wife or his police colleagues seemed too forced and unnatural. The book was also about 100 pages longer than his first and this along with the unrealistic police work means I’m not sure I’d be up for the third installment. I will however be looking forward to hearing what my book group members think about Verdon’s sophomore effort. And remember… suspect the family first.