John Verdon's debut novel THINK OF A NUMBER was one of the best-plotted mystery novels I'd read in years. In his new novel SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT, he brings back his protagonist, retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney, and gives him another seemingly impossible crime to solve. A beautiful young bride, just married in a lavish high society ceremony, is beheaded with a machete by a crazed Mexican gardener who then seemingly disappears into thin air. Gurney, functioning as an unlicensed private investigator, is hired by the bride's mother to find the killer and bring him to justice.
Having read Verdon's first novel, I expected that nothing would be exactly what it seems in this one, and I was right. This apparently senseless crime is just the first in a series of murders tied in with an international conspiracy. Or is it? One of the other characters refers to Gurney's ability to peel back the layers of a case like peeling an onion, and that's a very apt description. In that respect, Verdon's novels remind me of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels, in which Bosch's digging into a case leads to something which in turn leads to something else, and so on.
I didn't think that SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT was quite as ingeniously plotted as THINK OF A NUMBER, but it's still very, very good. A lot of the appeal of these books lies with their flawed hero, Dave Gurney, who is haunted by tragedy in his past and just wants to settle down to a life of retirement with his wife in the farming country of upstate New York, only to get drawn into the investigations of these so-called impossible crimes. It makes for an interesting blend of Golden Age-style detection, psychological thriller, and blood-and-thunder action. The big climax of this novel is very effective in mixing all three of those elements. Like the first book in the series, SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT is one of the best mystery novels I've read this year. Highly recommended.