Michael Robotham is not your ordinary, run-of-the mill kind of crime writer. Apart from an extensive journalistic writing career, this award winning author has some pretty good insight on the dark and seedy nature of crime, thanks to one of his previous writing gigs as “ghost writer” to the rich and famous, including the famous (though not necessarily rich) forensic psychologist Paul Britton.
Paul Britton is best known as the psychologist that inspired Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, the criminal psychologist played by Robbie Coltrane in the long running British TV series “Cracker”. Michael Robotham spent a considerable amount of time with Britton, during the ghost-writing of Britton’s book The Jigsaw Man, an account of Britton’s career of offender profiling for the British police.
It is easy to see the connection between Britton’s fascinating – and high calibre gory – stories of the psychological explanation of murder and mayhem, and Robotham’s own take on the nature of psychological profiling through the evolution of Robotham’s character Joe O’Loughlin. In Robotham’s latest novel Close Your Eyes, the much-loved character of Joe is back in his role as clinical psychologist, who is reluctantly dragged in to helping a dead-end murder investigation of a mother and her teenage daughter in a remote farm house.
One of the reasons why Joe O’Loughlin has become one of the most popular crime-fighting characters around, is due to his genuine anti-hero vibe. While his side-kick, Vincent Ruiz, may be more of a traditional, hard-boiled detective character, Joe – albeit über smart – is the nice guy, the guy next door, who has relatable family dramas just like the rest of us. He also has a body that, thanks to being afflicted with Parkinson disease, is slowly and frustratingly disintegrating – in complete contrast to his brilliant mind. Robotham has Joe’s voice down-pat, and his slightly deprecating sense of humour brings Joe’s struggle with his physical limitations to life in way which is genuine and humane.
The nature of the plot in Close Your Eyes means that Joe’s gentle voice is contrasted by another first-person voice, a voice which is a lot more sinister and insidious, and which brilliantly captures the descent of an ultimately psychologically damaged individual. Central to the questions surrounding the novel’s double-murder is whether the killer actually intended to kill both of the victims – or whether the second victim was merely at the wrong place, wrong time. Like Robotham’s other novels, which are inspired by real-life stories, the plot in Close Your Eyes originated from one of Paul Britton’s experiences of an unsolved double murder, and knowing that there is an element of reality to the story certainly makes it all the more creepy.
Fans of Michael Robotham – and of Joe O’Loughlin – will find this a brilliantly crafted and engaging mystery, with more than a few shocking twists towards the end. New readers of Robotham will no doubt be easily recruited by this new novel, where the ending will simply leave you wanting – and waiting – for more.