Written by Michael Robotham – It’s been two long years since clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin last hit our bookshelves in Watching You. He is staying away from crime work these days, concentrating on private clients as he fights a battle with Parkinson’s disease that he is destined to lose one day. Joe’s illness is so much a part of his life that it has even been turned into an almost human adversary, Mr Parkinson. In his mind, anyway.
But… And you knew that ‘but’ was coming, didn’t you? When former police ally Detective Chief Superintendent Ronnie Cray comes a calling, Joe finds it hard to resist her appeals for help.
A mother and daughter have been brutally murdered in an isolated farmhouse near to a pretty West Country seaside town. The police have a number of clues and a list of possible suspects but they’ve been leaked to the press by Milo Coleman, a so-called clinical psychologist who claims to be Joe’s protégée. It’s a lie (Coleman was an occasional student) and another reason why Joe is pulled in when Ronnie asks him to review the case and make sure they haven’t missed anything.
As he begins the task, Joe finds that things are not as open and shut as they first appear. The murdered woman Elizabeth Crowe has been through a messy divorce, was a regular on internet dating sites and well-known on the local dogging scene – hence the number of suspects. Her death was frenzied and messy. In contrast, her teenage daughter Harper was smothered and laid out as if asleep, a beloved old teddy in her arms.
It bothers Joe, but his worries are swept aside as the police come under increasing pressure to make an arrest thanks to a media campaign initiated by Coleman and local radio shock jock Terry Bannerman. And as if his professional view of the world isn’t skewed enough, Joe’s personal life is a little off too, with both his estranged wife and eldest daughter destined to make announcements that will shock and terrify him.
This is the eighth O’Loughlin and Ruiz thriller and you’ll note that Vincent Ruiz hasn’t got a look in thus far. In truth, Joe’s sidekick doesn’t make an appearance until well into the story and then is a peripheral, if vital, part of the action. It’s a tactic that weakens the book for me. The interaction between Joe and Vincent seen in previous novels is missing, and on occasions I found myself stopping and trying to recall just what task Ruiz had disappeared off to complete.
This is a book about love, marriage and infidelity, and how taking the wrong step can bring life crashing down around your ears. Someone out there is targeting adulterers and marking their wrongdoing in a most unusual way. Can Joe get inside the perpetrator’s head before his or her crimes escalate even further?
I had an inkling of whodunnit about halfway through, but I kept getting distracted down attractive cul-de-sacs and losing the scent. There are also a couple of true Robotham style twists to stop you in your reading tracks and make you think. The title is an apt one, because there’s little chance of getting any sleep while you read this book; the sinuous plot digs deep into your brain, never letting go until the emotion-filled final page.
Robotham is a master of the psychological thriller, and this novel is a fine example of the genre. As Mr Parkinson plays an ever-increasing part in the story, there’s an added poignancy to the pacy drama which makes Joe all the more human in the process.
Close Your Eyes will be eagerly snapped up by O’Loughlin fans worldwide, but don’t worry if you’re new to the series – it stands on its own as an excellent taster that’ll bring tempt you to try out some of the earlier books.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars