Publisher: Crown Publishers, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Where I Got It: Crown Publishers/TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 3 stars
Detective Dave Gurney, who readers first met in Think Of A Number, is back with another case—despite promising his wife Madeline that he really was retired after the events of the Mellery case. However, the reality is that Gurney is not cut out for retirement and a quiet life in the country. He needs a challenge and a puzzle to keep life interesting. So when an old colleague requests his help on a case, Gurney is easily drawn back into the fray.
Although the case appears to be open and shut, the police have been stymied for months. The facts seem cut and dry: At her wedding reception, a young bride is found beheaded in the cottage of the live-in gardner just before the congratulatory toast. Based on where the murder took place, it seems obvious that the gardner is the murderer—especially since video footage from the wedding accounts for everyone else’s whereabouts and the bride was seen entering the gardener’s cottage moments before the toast. Although the police have identified the murder weapon and the perpetrator, the gardener seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.
As Gurney gets drawn into the case, he begins to discover that things (including the bride and her groom) aren’t quite as they seem. In fact, it seems that Gurney may have stumbled onto a much larger conspiracy that involves a possible serial killer. Besides the case of the beheaded bride, the book also focuses on Gurney’s increasingly strained personal life and an unexpected development in his art career.
I read Think of A Number last year—drawn in by the seemingly “impossible” scenario. I ended up being intrigued by Gurney and the tragic back story hinted at in the first book. So when I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the chance to read it. After all, it featured another “impossible” case—plus I wanted to get to know Gurney more. Unfortunately, I think Verdon suffered a bit of a sophomore slump as this book didn’t grab me as much as his first one.
Part of the problem has to do with the sprawling and complex plot. Verdon seems determined to create another puzzler that leaves readers scratching their heads, but the scenario just isn’t as compelling in this book. In a way, this book sets up a classic “locked room” mystery. However, with almost no cast of characters to get to know and investigate, readers must rely on Verdon to provide the clues and plot developments instead of trying to puzzle things out on their own. This led to a less active reading experience. In addition, the plot got so convoluted and complicated that I started to lose the core of the story. In fact, thinking back now, I would have a hard time explaining to you exactly what happened!
In addition, the relationship between Gurney and Madeline wasn’t as fully developed as it was in the first book. In fact, Madeline was barely present in this book—often just passing by as Gurney was doing his stuff. I was also bothered by some of the decisions that Gurney made and his choice to keep critical information from Madeline. It seemed inconsistent with their relationship.
Despite my complaints, Shut Your Eyes Tight isn’t a horrible book. Readers who enjoy mysteries and thrillers would probably like it, and it is well-suited for a summer read (lots of thrills; not too much thinking). However, it is uncharacteristically long for these types of books—clocking in at just over 400 pages. Still, I wouldn’t write off Dave Gurney and John Verdon yet. Think of A Number was Verdon’s first book, and I think it is common for authors to have a bit of a slump in their follow-up, especially when pressured to come up with another “impossible” scenario for their super-detective.
Want a chance to win a copy of Shut Your Eyes Tight? Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Crown Publishers, I’m able to give away one copy of the book to a reader in the U.S. or Canada. To enter, simply fill in the entry form below to enter. The deadline is August 15th.No more submissions accepted at this time.
Thank you to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for this book. You can find the other tour stops by clicking here. Thanks also to Crown Publishers for my review copy of the book and for offering the giveaway opportunity.