Friday, December 23, 2011

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon

In Shut Your Eyes Tight, a bride is beheaded at her wedding reception just after she was wed to a prominent psychiatrist. Dave Gurney, a retired homicide investigator can't resist looking into this one. His wife is opposed to the idea and just wants him to enjoy their move out to the country. Once Gurney learns the details, he finds that it's so bizarre and horrific that soon he can't think of anything else. Through his digging he finds evil very close to the surface. However, as he continues to dig the extent of that evil becomes unimaginable.

I loved this book. I love that Verdon doesn't rely on action scenes to make the story interesting or suspenseful. Much like his first book, this is very much a thinking man's mystery. It sucked me in and made me forget about everything else that I should have been doing. It was so intelligently written and meticulously thought out that it was a joy to read. Verdon's storytelling is amazing. I just love it. He reiterated the facts in the case several times without coming across as repetitive or preachy. It just made it easier to follow. I didn't have to flip back once in the book to remind myself of who was who or what had happened previously, even though the book is 500+ pages long.

The storyline did get a little gruesome at times. Thankfully, it did not feature the action of the beheadings, just the aftermaths of them, which was bad enough. The other main topic or subject matter of the story was sexual abuse. Another uncomfortable topic to read about. This time it was especially sad since the both the abused and the abusers were so young.

The main character, Dave Gurney, is a fantastic protagonist with lots of great qualities and numerous flaws. He suffers terrible guilt over his sons and has quite a unique hobby - using his computer to manipulate portraits/mug shots of serial killers. He also lectures at the police academy. I loved both his lectures and the way his students answered his questions. I find Gurney very relatable and easy to understand. I think I like him so much because he's very much like least according to his Myers Briggs evaluation:
His instinctive route to understanding was primarily through thinking...He was fascinated by connecting the dots...He was energized by solitude...observing was just one tool to enable clearer judging. (page 96)
His wife, Madeline, on the other hand, is pretty much his opposite, which is probably why I have a hard time connecting with her. As for the other characters, I didn't like them very much, but I don't think I was supposed to.

If I had to pick one thing that I didn't like, it was the dust jacket. It's very striking with the rose petals, rose stems complete with thorns, drops of blood and the raised and indented lettering. However, the slightly weird texture (a bit rough) bothered me. I didn't like the feel of it. It wasn't exactly irritating, but it wasn't comfortable either. It's strange because now that I compare it to other books, it's not really that different. It did, however, seem very different when I was reading the book and handling it daily.

New words:
shibboleth (page 180): catchword or slogan
amelioration (page 214): improve
scimitar (page 218): Arab or Turkish saber
cupidity (page 242): greed
loquacity (page 268): tending to talk a lot
physiognomy (page 268): facial features
insouciant (page 382): not worrying about possible problems; carefree
condign reparation (page 485): punishment in perfect balance with the offense. Punishment of an ideally appropriate nature (definition from the book).

I've read one other book by Verdon, Think of a Number (my review). I loved it.

Highly recommended. I'll definitely be looking for more of this author's work.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Shut Your Eyes Tight: A Novel by John Verdon, Crown Publishers (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780307717894(Hardcover), 509p.


  1. This sounds good to me!

    Marie, I wanted to stop by to wish you a wonderful Holiday; hope it means special time with family and friends.

  2. Gruesome at times is so correct...made me shudder. I don't think this is as good as the first one.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  3. Think Of A Number has been sitting on my dresser for quite a while now, patiently waiting it's turn. I think it sounds like a good choice for Dave and I to read together - he can edit the gruesome parts for me if there are any. Your description of Verdon's books as "thinking man's mysteries" makes them sound even more intriguing.

    Besides - when you live in Verdon, NE, you should read books by Verdon, don't you think?

  4. I have this book but haven't read it yet. I haven't been in the mood for gruesome but from your review it does sound good.

  5. I can't wait to read this! I loved his first and this sounds even better. I'm gearing up for a mystery/thriller binge, probably in Feb.


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