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A BRUTAL DOUBLE MURDER in a remote Somerset cottage has baffled the police, and inflamed local opinion over what they see as the ineptitude of the investigating officers. In charge of the case is DCS Ronnie Cray – and yes, she has changed the first letter of her surname – and almost in desperation she enlists the help of forensic psychologist Dr Joseph O’Loughlin.

O’Loughlin is reluctantly drawn into the efforts to track down the killer who butchered Elizabeth Crowe beneath the satanist pentangle daubed on her wall, and efficiently suffocated her teenage daughter, Harper, in her bed upstairs. To say the very least, O’Laughlin has enough problems of his own. He is trying to live a normal life while battling the early symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, and his delight at being invited to return to the cottage occupied by his daughters Charlie and Emma, and his estranged wife, is tempered when he learns that Julianne has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Robotham introduces us to  a possible culprit in the opening pages of the book. This man describes his assaults on various women, while describing his awful childhood. His once-brutal father is now in a care home, and has advanced dementia, but our narrator recalls with hatred the beatings – both physical and psychological – he suffered at his father’s hands. Even more telling is the lasting legacy of his mother’s death. She was, perhaps understandably, given her husband’s predilection for violence,’playing away’, but was killed in a bizarre road traffic accident.

Elizabeth Crowe was, to use the old cliché, “no better than she should have been”. After an acrimonious divorce, she has used her new-found freedom to explore the dubious delights of dogging, and it is the participants of that strangely British open-air activity who are the obvious suspects in the investigation. There is no shortage of other suspects, however. How about the dim-witted Tommy Garrett who lives with his grandmother in the neighbouring property? Or maybe Elizabeth’s former husband, Dominic? Not only did Elizabeth cheat on him with her body, but she also ruined him financially.

Robotham leads O’Loughlin – and you, the reader – a merry dance. There are red herrings a-plenty, as O’Loughlin tries to establish the connection between the contrasting deaths of Elizabeth and Harper Crowe, and a seemingly random series of attacks on people which leaves some of them dead, but all with a crude letter ‘A’ cut into their foreheads. But of course, in detective novels, nothing is ever really random, or no fictional crime would ever be solved. Robotham is a clever enough writer to allow O’Loughlin to make the mother of all mistakes before a terrifying climax is played out on a storm blasted cliff top above the raging seas of the Bristol Channel.

Remember the famous scene in Jaws, where we are watching the Richard Dreyfuss character probing the hole in the half-sunken boat? Just as we are expecting the shark to come charging in, Spielberg gives us an even greater shock when the severed head rolls in to view. Robotham does something rather similar at the end of Close Your Eyes as he blind-sides us with a killer blow that we never see coming. This novel, which came out in hardback and digital versions last year, and is now out as a Sphere paperback, will further cement Robotham’s reputation as one of the cleverest and most effective writers of modern crime thrillers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Robotham
was born in Casino, New South Wales in 1960, and after serving an apprenticeship on a Sydney newspaper, moved to London, where he eventually became deputy features editor for The Daily Mail. In 1993 he began his literary career, first as a ghostwriter for several notable personalities who were writing their autobiographies. His first hit crime novel was The Suspect in 2004, and he has since won many awards for his books.  He has returned to Australia, and Close Your Eyes is the eighth novel in the Joseph O’Loughlin series.

Michael Robotham, international crime writer visiting London 26.07.2010 picture: Stefan Erhard

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