Friday, March 21, 2014

Contemporary Fiction: Eyes Closed Tight by Peter Leonard

This week's post will be another departure for me as it is way more mystery/thriller than what I usually go for. I was sent Peter Leonard's most recent novel, Eyes Closed Tight, in exchange for a review as part of the blog tour for the book. It involves a retired police detective who must go back to an old case in order to solve the some recent murders that have been happening near his motel in Florida.

The Situation: O'Clair is a retired Detroit homicide investigator who now reside in Pompano Beach, Florida where he owns and operates a beach front motel with his much younger girlfriend, Virginia. Since retiring, he and Virginia live a fairly quiet life, renting out rooms to tourists and vacationers, and enjoying life on the beach. When O'Clair sees the body of a young woman on one of his lounge chairs that has been dragged away from the pool area, he assumes she is one of the college students that have been staying in the motel, sleeping off a night of partying. When the girl doesn't wake up, and when O'Clair searches for a pulse and doesn't find one, he has to alert the police, knowing having a crime scene so close to his motel will hurt business. But when a second body shows up in the same manner, a little loss of business is the least of O'Clair's problems.

The Problem: Having dead women show up on the property of your home and business is bad enough. But the more O'Clair finds out about these murders the more it sounds like a case he worked years ago in Detroit. Some of the details surrounding those murders are a little different, but still close enough for O'Clair to believe the killer is sending him a message, and that he arrested the wrong guy back in Detroit. And when it becomes clear that the killer now has his eyes on Virginia, O'Clair knows he is in a race against the clock.  

Genre, Themes, History: This is a mystery/thriller novel set in present-day Florida, with a good amount of scenes taking place in Detroit, Michigan, as O'Clair goes back there to look into his old case with his former partner. There is some suspense, but from the beginning the reader is told who the killer is and even sees parts of the story from their point of view. There is more to be revealed later, however, regarding the particulars of the killer's identity and why he is back. Plus, there is the general suspense over whether they will get caught or not. While the story may be told by a third person omniscient narrator, there are times where the reader is allowed to enter the character's mind, including the killer. And while O'Clair revisits his old case, the reader is given some history into the killer's background to see how they got into the business of ending lives. The book looks at what makes people act the way they do, and what could possibly motivate somewhat to believe that serial killing is a viable option.

My Verdict: As I said, this book is a departure for me and is not one I would normally just choose to review. But even so, I was generally pleased with it and even a bit entertained. There were moments where I rolled my eyes (the much younger girlfriend part was instance #1) and there were parts that I wanted badly to skip - basically any part where the story was told from the killer's perspective and it was obvious what was coming next. But even so, I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would and recommend it to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries involving serial killers and even cold cases. There were only a few moments where I was truly less than impressed with the writing, and those moments were mostly due to either holes in the plot or character development issues. On the whole, this is a good book.

Favorite Moment: When O'Clair uses just a mention of the IRS in order to get information out of a less than reputable business.      

Favorite Character: This is difficult because O'Clair is pretty much front and center, with everyone else, even Virginia, with much less exposure. There is also much focus on the killer of course, who was by far my least favorite character. So I think I will go with DeAndre, O'Clair's former partner in Detroit. He's a smart, educated, well-dressed, successful, black lieutenant in one of the country's toughest cities, and is willing to look into the old case with O'Clair, even if that means finding out they had made a mistake. 

Recommended Reading: When I go to pick a mystery/thriller, I tend to go for something more like Marisha Pessl's Night Film. But be warned, Pessl's book is about three times as long and much much darker.

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