Guest Reviewer: Lisa Scottoline on Shut Your Eyes Tight Lisa Scottoline is the
New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of 18 novels including her latest, Save Me. She is President of Mystery Writers of America and writes a weekly column,
Chick Wit, with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the
Philadelphia Inquirer. The columns have been collected in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space
Voice is the hallmark of a great writer, and I loved John Verdon’s riveting Shut Your Eyes Tight from page one, because I fell in love with his voice.
Yes, the plot is a humdinger, too, with a bride turning up dead on her wedding day, whereupon former NYPD police detective Dave (“Don’t call me Davey”) Gurney is called out of an uneasy retirement to investigate the crime and find the killer. Gurney’s been settling into a country life in the Catskills, trying to force himself to think about mulch and bulldozers, but it ain’t working out so great. His superbly-drawn (if realistically tart-tongued) wife is hoping they can spend more time together, but Gurney is a “natural-born onion peeler” and he can’t sit on his hands when murder strikes in nearby, ritzy Tambury.
Gurney starts digging, asking thoughtful questions, and interviewing the society types who knew the bride, and soon his dining room table is covered with notes and gruesome crime-scene photos that his wife wishes weren’t around when dinner guests arrive. Yet Gurney persists, seeking the truth in his quiet, self-assured way.
The plot comes to life on the first page, but as I say, what keeps the pages turning is the pitch-perfect, intriguing voice of this “hero,” a term I know that Dave Gurney would hate. He’s super-smart, but the last one to brag. He loves his wife, but he doesn’t get all mawkish about her. He’s haunted by the death of his young child, but he doesn’t even say that aloud. Even his diversions are fascinating; you’ll never forget his theory of “The Eureka Fallacy,” a lesson in police analysis that applies to your everyday life. And he goes about serving justice, despite all the personal costs at home, with a care and concern that you realize, by the end, is characteristic.
I know that you’ll want to hear more from Dave Gurney and this amazingly talented author, John Verdon. I can’t wait for his next book.
A Letter from Author John Verdon
“How on earth did you put this together?”
That’s probably the question I was asked most frequently about my first Dave Gurney multi-layered thriller, Think of a Number
. And now the early readers of the second novel in the series, Shut Your Eyes Tight
, an even twistier tale, are asking it again.
I guess the best way to answer the question is to describe how these complex stories seem to develop in my mind. For me, there are two starting points for every mystery-thriller. There is the largely concealed action of the criminal—the true extent and nature of which will drive the plot, creating an increasing level of danger and destruction. And there is a specific mysterious result of that criminal action that initially touches and involves the crime-solver—drawing him into an ever higher level of confrontation with the underlying evil enterprise.
In Think of a Number
, the initial tip of the criminal iceberg is a chilling and seemingly clairvoyant series of letters received by Dave Gurney’s old college classmate. As other baffling and murderous bits of the iceberg come to the surface, Dave becomes more and more engaged, more personally challenged to find the pattern, the motive, the killer.
In Shut Your Eyes Tight
, the first visible sign of something complex beneath the surface is far more horrific. A bride is decapitated at her own wedding reception—and Dave is drawn into the investigation by a disgruntled cop who believes the official investigation is off-track.
My personal approach is to develop a story like Shut Your Eyes Tight
on two simultaneous tracks that gradually become more and more entwined. The criminal does something that gets the attention of the detective; the detective begins his examination of the situation; the criminal escalates his activity, producing results that further involve the detective; the detective’s intensified investigative actions provoke more desperate responses by the criminal, building to a climactic high-risk confrontation and the revelation of the full architecture of the very nasty iceberg.
For me, the key to the credible development of this kind of a narrative lies in understanding my characters—their motives, emotions, and potential for interaction. But you know what part of the process excites and inspires me the most? It’s the part where I imagine that first visible hint of the monster beneath the surface. Whenever I see a horror or science-fiction movie, the great moment is that first glimpse of trouble.
I remember an old black-and-white movie I saw, probably back in the 1950s. A happy little family on vacation spent the night in their camping trailer by a back road in the desert. In the morning, one of the children, chasing a ball, comes upon a very strange footprint in the sand—nothing recognizably human or animal.
A clichéd opening? Sure. But it gave me gooseflesh, and I loved it! And of course, there is that remarkable scene near the beginning of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet
, in which the young hero, walking through the woods, happens upon a human ear.
I believe that a lot of the power and appeal of any narrative flows from its initial image of trouble. It’s the imaginative flash of lightning that illuminates the path into the story—for writer and reader alike.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Taut and suspenseful…Verdon is in top form as he lays out the twisty mechanics of the crime, creating an agreeably sinister villain…A strong follow-up to the author’s wildly entertaining debut.”--Washington Post
“The crime is grisly and the cop is complicated. A nice combination.”--New York Daily News
“For anyone who loves a good puzzle, John's Verdon's SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT is the easy answer.”--CNN.com
"Verdon, who hit a home run with his debut novel, THINK OF A NUMBER,
has now nailed another one."--Booklist
"Absorbing complications, perfect pacing and a conflicted protagonist (endearing for his introspection)...The author's insight, which imbues the story with tremendous humanity, make this a must-read for thriller fans who enjoy tales that are not only gripping but believable." Library Journal (starred review)
"Verdon follows THINK OF A NUMBER, his sensational debut featuring retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney, with this standout sequel, set a year later. [The elements:] a bizarre, high-profile murder…an apparent impossibility involving the murder weapon, and once again…a relationship in crisis."--Publishers Weekly
(Starred Review)From the Hardcover edition.