Close Your Eyes (Joe O’Loughlin) by Michael Robotham

Another strong entry in the series…

😀 😀 😀 😀

close your eyesTwo women have been murdered – the mother brutally, the daughter left posed as if she were sleeping. Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is called in to review the case when another psychologist who had been working on it, an old student of his, reveals details of the crime to the press. It’s not clear from the differences between the two murders whether this is the work of a psychopathic killer or something more personal. But when another murder happens, linked to a series of vicious attacks, Joe begins to suspect that there’s a connection…

Meantime, Joe’s estranged wife, Julianne, has asked Joe to come and spend the summer with the family in their holiday cottage. Joe has never stopped hoping for a reconciliation so jumps at the chance, although he knows that Julianne won’t be happy that he’s got involved in another police investigation. It’s only as time passes that he will discover the reason for Julianne’s invitation.

The story is told from Joe’s perspective in the dreaded first person present tense, but at least Robotham is skilled enough to handle it well. The focus remains primarily on the investigation throughout, with Joe’s personal life forming a secondary strand.

Feeling responsible for his old student’s behaviour, Joe is driven to find the killer before there are any more victims, so he calls in his old friend Vincent Ruiz, now retired from the police, to help him investigate. They do so in the ‘old-fashioned’ way, by interviewing suspects and getting to know the background of the victims. The plotting is excellent as always – I didn’t guess the solution, but felt it made sense when revealed, though looking back I’m not sure there were enough clues for the reader to work it out.

However, as with so much modern crime fiction, the book is far too long for its content, meaning that it drags in places with the same ground being covered more than once, and it takes way too long for Joe and/or the police to work out the obvious connection between the victims. The old cliché of the protagonist’s family becoming targets is trotted out again – one can quite understand why Julianne gets a bit fed up with Joe taking on cases since every time the murderer ends up trying to kill one or all of them! In line with current trends, there’s the obligatory prologue from the mind of the killer, and in this case it’s pretty sleazy and a bit gruesome – to be honest, if this had been my first Robotham novel, I may well have abandoned it before chapter 1, but experience led me to expect, rightly, that the salacious elements wouldn’t be allowed to take over the whole book.

I also wasn’t keen on the personal story arc in this one, which becomes fairly traumatic. Robotham handles it sensitively and well, but nonetheless I’m not an enthusiast for this kind of wallowing in misery, soap opera approach to the protagonist’s life in contemporary crime.

Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham

Despite the clichéd elements, Robotham’s excellent writing always makes his books very readable and this one is no exception. Joe is an interesting and likeable protagonist, his battle with Parkinson’s disease always handled well, again never being allowed to dominate the story, and his working partnership with Ruiz is one of two equals with differing skills who respect each other. His relationships with his ex-wife and daughters always feel authentic too – he is at heart a family man, and although he and Julianne are separated, the family unit is still strong and both parents work together to give their daughters the support they need. The plot finally leads up to an exciting and scary thriller ending, but Joe never turns into an unbelievable superhero, so that it all feels perfectly credible.

So, for me, not quite the best, but still a strong entry in a series that is a long way above most contemporary crime. The plot works fine as a standalone, but to get the best out of the background story I’d recommend reading the books in order – unlike me! – starting with The Suspect.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK.

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33 thoughts on “Close Your Eyes (Joe O’Loughlin) by Michael Robotham

  1. I don’t understand why editors of modern crime fiction think every book has to be a doorstop – surely its better to keep things tense and tightly written? This does sound good though!

    • Beats me! The plots are no more complex than books of yore – in fact, less complicated quite often. And I do find it prevents tension building up. When I see a book at about 200-300 pages, my heart rises! But having said all that, this is one of my favourite current series – the man can write! 🙂

  2. Ooo! Why did Julianne ask? Why, why, why? I bet she was the murderer. That’s a hard word to spell, by the way: murderer. I think I’ve got it down, finally.

    Close your Eyes is a great title, too. That’s the first thing every murderer wants you to do.

    • Ah, well I shouldn’t really tell you ‘cos it would be such a spoiler, but… she was hosting the Annual Feminist Barbecue and she needed a little man-flesh for the burgers. Poor Joe!

      Is it?? Stay away from murderers! They can be dangerous! I’ve never met a murderer, you know, you know – isn’t that kinda sad? At least, not that I know of…

      • Hahaha. Feminist Barbecue sounds great. I’ll come and bring Paul Joseph Watson and Milo Y with me. But I don’t think I shall eat a burger. Yucketh.

        Quite right. You could’ve met one! And just don’t know it!! Isn’t that a scary thought?

  3. I have to admit, FictionFan, I’m getting tired of the ‘prologue from the point of view of the killer’ approach to starting a book. Even in Robotham’s skilled hands, I don’t like it. And I couldn’t agree more about the whole question of book length. I’m not sure whether it’s publishers or some other source of pressure, but a lot of contemporary books do go on; and honestly, I rarely think it works. To be quite frank, if it weren’t a Robotham you were reviewing, I’d probably not bother. But he is a skilled storyteller, and I do like his Joe O’Loughlin character. So I likely forgive him things that I wouldn’t ordinarily forgive from another author.

    • Yes, I find the whole prologue thing annoying and it quite often puts me off even before I begin. Especially if it’s kinda sleazy, as this one is. Occasionally it’s done well, but like everything else in crime fiction at the moment – if it works in one book, then they all follow along! And as for length, I’m getting increasingly tired of wading through a couple of hundred pages of filler in the middle. But like you, there are some authors I’m more likely to tolerate these things in than others. I thought I was beginning to notice that crime books were getting shorter again, but I feel that the last few I’ve read have been back up to 450 pages or more… *sighs*

      • I know! I just got one (unsolicited) that’s over 500 pages! Not that the story doesn’t sound at all interesting, but it’s hard to invest that much time and energy unless the plot is absolutely stellar.

        • I find my reading slows down too if the bit in the middle drags, which means it takes even longer to wade through them. A book that length needs something more than just a usual plot – like Sansom, where you get all the historical stuff thrown in too or something.

  4. Just been rereading John Buchan – enough plot and character to fill a library, a thrill a minute and all in (about) 200 pages. Ah, those were the days!

    • I know – I’m reading two at the moment which both come in about 250 pages – tight, well-told, non-waffly… and of course both originally published decades ago. I wonder how many of these massive over-filled tomes will still be being read in fifty years time…

  5. Hm, I haven’t read this one, and it sounds most intriguing! Thanks, as always, for an excellent review — love it that you don’t give us the endings!! That said, I imagine publishers want longer books, thinking that if they’re going to sink all that money into a work, they might as well get bang for their buck. I wonder if that’s self-defeating though?

    • This is a really good series – it’s not always about Joe, the protagonist in this one. He kinda circles around various main characters which keeps it interesting. I don’t know about these long books – I guess some people must love them, but I almost never see anyone mention length except to say – too long! It’s fine if the story needs it, but so often it just becomes repetitive filler.

  6. Julianne has a low bar for being fed up. I’d be fed up with socks scattered around the house. Being a murderous target would have me packing my bags! Haha… I’m enjoying the High Mountains of Portugal. Though picturing myself walking backwards, I’d run into cacti and then the plot would be about recovery from injury and not grief. I suspect there are softer landing in Portugal than here in the desert. Thanks again for all you wonderful suggestions on London sights! I imagine you’ve taken the Ripper tour! Eerie stuff.

    • Haha! Yes, I could fully understand why she’d kicked him out! But I suppose it means the kids grow up tough… 😉

      Oh, I’m glad you’re enjoying it – and if you’re enjoying that first section, which I think is the weakest part overall, hopefully you’ll love sections 2 and 3!! Haha! I have done the Ripper tour more than once! When I lived in London for a few years, I suddenly became super popular as a short-break destination with Glaswegian friends and family. Unfortunately they all wanted to do the same things – I reckon I could have run the Ripper tour at one point! And don’t even ask how often I went to see Oliver! 😉

  7. It is a great shame that modern crime fiction publishers seem to push for such long books – I much appreciate a tightly told tale with no parts that drag… and FPPT eh? I still haven’t read anything by this author although I do have one on the TBR; surprise, surprise!

    • I don’t know why they do it – you almost never see anyone mention length, except to say “too long”! I don’t mind long books if the story needs it, but so often it’s just filler. Haha! If I didn’t read any FPPT I wouldn’t be able to read any books published this decade! 😉 I’ve loved most of his books, and liked the rest, so hope you enjoy it… when you get to it!!

    • They must think that it gives extra value for money or something, but I’d honestly happily pay the same for a book half the length that didn’t drag in the middle. It all seems to be writing to a formula at the moment – and unfortunately I don’t like the formula!

  8. I really enjoy good crime fiction from time to time, and I’m all caught up on Michael Connelly, so I may have to give Robotham a try based on your recommendation!

    • I haven’t read any Michael Connolly so can’t make a direct comparison, but I’ve really enjoyed Robotham’s books – the writing and characterisation are of a much higher standard than you often find in crime fiction. If you do give one a try, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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