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Shut Your Eyes Tight    by John Verdon order for
Shut Your Eyes Tight
by John Verdon
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

John Verdon soared to the bestseller lists and won acclaim from other top thriller writers with his superlative debut in Think of a Number, an intricate puzzler. And though I guessed the identity of a key villain this time (only because I knew that with this author you must think outside the box), he's done it again with Shut Your Eyes Tight.

The series lead is retired homicide investigator Dave Gurney, NYPD's most decorated detective. Dave and his wife Madeleine now live in a nineteenth century farmhouse in the Delaware County hills. Though Madeleine is thoroughly content with country life, Dave is not - 'halfheartedness was the best attitude to the bucollic life that he could muster.' He has still not come to terms with the death of their small son fifteen years before and rarely communicates with his adult son from a first marriage, Kyle.

As Shut Your Eyes Tight opens, Dave is contacted by abrasive, cynical Jack Hardwick who seeks to interest him in a recent case in which a 'Debutante bride got whacked at her own wedding.' Actually Jillian was decapitated. The chief suspect is the couple's Mexican gardener, Hector Flores, who has disappeared. The groom is celebrity psychiatrist Scott Ashton and the victim's neurotic mother (Val Perry) wants to hire Dave as a consultant on Jack's recommendation. Hardwick was taken off the case after he told his boss he was full of it.

Of course, Madeleine does not want Dave to get involved and of course he jumps right in. The wife of Ashton's neighbour (who was believed to have had an affair with Flores) is also missing. And the last message on Jillian's cell is 'For all the reasons I have written', signed Edward Vallory. Who is he? It's a puzzle that Dave can really get his little grey cells into. Before the plot thickens much, Verdon gives the reader insights, through Dave Gurney's lecture on the eureka fallacy, on how to make people believe that the false is true. As Jack later comments, 'We tell ourselves stories. We miss the real evidence. That's the problem.'

Dave Gurney steadily unravels the tightly knotted puzzle, learning that several young women - who like Jillian had attended a school for very troubled adolescents and had posed for hot fashion ads - are missing. Meanwhile a plot unfolds against him, leaving Gurney's mind 'churning with unknowns, with terrible possibilities' - why was he targeted and when will the other shoe fall? When a message is left in their home, Madeleine is devastated - and furious with her husband for letting monsters into her sanctuary. But Gurney uncovers an entire conglomerate of monsters in this horrendous case.

John Verdon is the new superstar of the mystery genre - if you had read Think of a Number, you probably already have a copy of Shut Your Eyes Tight. But if this author is new to you, you have a rare treat in store.

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