Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

25887021I couldn’t believe my eyes when, upon looking for books to read over Christmas, I discovered I’d missed (missed!), the publication and thus acquisition of Michael Robotham’s latest, Close Your Eyes, earlier in the year. Yep – mine were shut, weren’t they! I can only plead work as an excuse. So, while I was disappointed I’d missed reading the novel when it first came out, I was thrilled to know another Joseph O’Loughlin adventure was there for me to devour – and that I did.

When the bodies of a mother and daughter are found in a farmhouse, one brutally murdered, the other carefully arranged on a bed with barely a mark upon her, suspicion falls upon the neighbours, estranged members of the family and the multiple online sexual partners of the mother. Against his better judgement and despite promises to the contrary to his family, Joseph is drawn into the case, one that’s not only baffled the officers in charge but has been seriously undermined by the leaking of details to the press and accusations of incompetence levelled by a man who fancies himself as a celebrity-psychologist. A former student of Joe’s, Milo Coleman, the so-called “Mindhunter” is arrogant and reckless and feeling somewhat responsible, Joe agrees to help Chief Superintendent Veronica Cray –not only with the case, but in trying to reign in Milo’s ambitions.

But the perpetrator is also watching and the closer the Mindhunter comes to destroying public faith in the force and Joe to cracking the case, the closer the killer lurks as well.

In the meantime, Joe has been asked to move back with his wife while she undergoes an operation. Ignorant as to the state of Julianne’s health, Joe is horrified to learn that her condition is very serious. Trying to balance the case with caring for his wife’s well-being and that of his two daughters, conflict arises when his eldest daughter reveals she too wants to be a clinical psychologist like her father and demands he include her, when appropriate, in his investigation.

Soliciting the help of his old mate, Vincent Ruiz, not even the combined efforts of Joe and Vincent can keep Joe’s family safe, particularly when killers come in all sorts of guises and when you least expect it…

I am not going to reveal any more except to say, as usual, Robotham has written a cracker of a book with a terrific plot, dialogue that both simmers and sparkles and prose that is poetic an moving in parts and fast-paced and riveting in others. There are rich and rounded characters with whom you identify so strongly (no more so than Joe), and an ending that will leave fans of the series reeling. I cried a tissue-box.

I simply adore this writer’s work and this series in particular and cannot wait to read the next instalment for which I will keep my eyes peeled!

 

 

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Book Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

In an earlier review oLife or Deathf Robotham’s works, I said they should come with a health warning as they render the reader unable to sleep. I want to correct that statement and instead recommend they be issued as a cure for narcolepsy, because I defy anyone to try and sleep while reading his latest work, Life or Death, because I sure as hell could not.

While I will read anything this man writes, I initially thought this was to be another in his Joseph O’Loughlin series and kept waiting for one of my favourite fictive characters (and his cop buddy, Vincent Ruiz) to make an entry. They don’t. This novel isn’t part of the O’Loughlin series and I initially experienced a small flash of disappointment that was swiftly staunched. That’s because this novel is a tremendous standalone with a fabulous premise: why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released?

Why indeed.

That question is enough to arouse anyone’s curiousity, and I wondered how Robotham was going to pull off the story of Audie Palmer, a young man convicted of armed robbery ten years earlier and in which four people died, who flees his jail cell the day before he’s given state-sanctioned freedom for serving time. Reviled outside the prison, hounded endlessly within, Palmer’s life has been one of misery and hardship – so why does he make it worse by escaping? Why risk adding 20-25 years to his sentence by becoming a felon once more?

Palmer’s escape sets in motion a series of events over which he appears to have no control. Hunted by the authorities and criminals alike, Palmer is on a mission, but will he succeed and what’s the nature of this mission? Why didn’t he just wait one more day and walk from behind bars a free man?

This was a simply sensational tale. Taut, fast-paced, filled with believable characters, Robotham’s cracking dialogue, and original descriptions, I couldn’t put this down. Not only do the people come to life as the present and past unfold, but the different settings, the American landscape from the borders with Mexico to Texas, also develop a life of their own. You can smell the heat, taste the brackish water or the greasy eggs in an out-of-the-way diner, feel the sand, hear the flyscreens squeaking on rusty hinges as forlorn and deadbeat extras make an appearance. Despite having a horrible headache that required codeine, I stayed up till 3am to finish the book. I had to know what happened to Audie (who you come to champion so hard it hurts!), I had to know why he did what he did. The plot doesn’t only thicken in this novel, as back-stories and flashbacks weave their way in, laying solid foundations upon which the present is built, it sets harder than concrete making the conclusion one, though you don’t see it coming until the end, marvellously strong and utterly satisfying.

The only downside is that I have finished the damn thing and now have a long wait for Robotham’s next book. But if you like crime novels, edge of your seat thrillers, character driven works that also pay homage to setting, and are just superbly written, then I cannot recommend this highly enough.

 

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Book Review: Watching You by Michael Robotham

I was so thrilled when Michael Robotham’s latest book, Watching You, the seventh in the Joseph O’Loughlin series downloaded on my Kindle. The only thing that disappointed me about this fast-paced, edge of your seat, nail-biting and every other cliché I can conjure instalment, was that I finished it in one sitting. I simply could not put it down. Damn. Damn. Damn.

The novel begins with Marnie Logan, a young, married woman with two children whose husband, Daniel, disappeared without a trace over a year ago. Grieving for her husband, Marnie (who has her own demons past and present to deal with) tries to cope. Depressed, she’s been seeing her neighbour, Joe O’Loughlin on a professional basis for quite some time. What she hasn’t revealed to him is that throughout most of her life she’s had the uncomfortable sensation of being watched – it’s nothing tangible, just a flash in the corner of her eye, a light touch, like cobwebs, upon her shoulders; the uneasy sensation that nothing you do is private.

It’s not until she finds an incomplete birthday present that Daniel was working on for her birthday, a scrapbook of memories, DVD of interviews and images of people from her past, that things begin to go awry. Far from being the celebration Daniel intended, there are people he interviews who are either terrified of Marine and what she did to them, or curse her to an early grave. When Marnie, confused and upset, turns to Joe to explain what’s going on, he turns to his buddy, Vincent Ruiz for help.

Just in time, it seems, for Marnie is going to need some friends, particularly when a shady character she’s involved with turns up dead and the last number he called and the last person he’s known to have seen, was her.

Denying all knowledge and proclaiming her innocence, everyone can see she is lying, but what is Marnie hiding? When her history starts to unfold, not even Joe is prepared for what he discovers…

Yet again, Robotham has written a tautly paced, beautifully written novel that is full of surprises, even when you think you’ve predicted the outcome. The characters are expertly drawn and so believable. You invest in each and every one – whether it’s a cynical cop, a concerned psychiatrist, Marnie or her terrific kids. And, of course, there is always Joe and Vincent – their dialogue snaps, their observations (about crime scenes, individuals, the world) crackle. Humour laces the novel despite its heavy themes as does the importance of family and trust. But this novel is also about the ways in which we watch each other and what can be drawn from observation alone. It’s not enough – it’s never enough, and though scopophilia (the (erotic) love of looking) reveals a great deal (usually about the voyeur), it can only ever offer facades, a partial picture of who a person is – not that this prevents decisions, reckless, dangerous ones, being made on that basis. The book is also about the dangers posed by judging a person too quickly on their appearance or on unreliable information, on the basis of what is seen alone. Like an ice-berg, the novel demonstrates that it’s the seven-eights we don’t see that carry the burden, the weight, that offer context and explanations.

All very well and good if there is time, but for Marnie, Joe, Vincent and everyone else, time is about to run out….

Another gripping, fantastic novel from one of the greats in the psychological thrillers/crime genre.

Damn… now I have to wait for his next one…

Five out of five plus!

 

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Book Review: Bombproof by Michael Robotham

Hang on to the edge of your page, because this is one helluva ride.

Robotham’s books need to come with a health-warning: inclined to induce insomnia. I read Bombproof in one sitting, staying up to watch the sun sneak through the blinds and hear the birds begin to bloody well sing. Serves me right for starting it so late at night.  A shorter novel than some of Robotham’s others, it’s also an incredibly fast-paced book that follows the extraordinary mis-adventures of the gorgeously named Sami Macbeth, the “unluckiest person” in the world. Not a criminal, not a terrorist and certainly not a murderer, poor Sami is mistaken for all three and faces the hefty and deadly consequences of such labels.

Falling into one scrape after another, Sami finds himself embroiled in a plot to sabotage evidence in a major case. When his involvement goes horribly wrong, resulting in the blowing up of a passenger train in the London underground and the grisly death of his accomplice, Sami find himself being hunted by the entire metropolitan police, the criminal elements in the city and his face plastered all over the media.

With nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, Sami turns to the one person who can help: *sound the trumpets*. Enter, stage right, Vincent Ruiz. Grizzled, retired and with better things to do than hunt a terrorist loser, there’s nonetheless something about Sami that appeals to Vincent. Maybe it’s his underdog status, maybe it’s the fact all the poor bastard wants to do is find his sister, or maybe it’s because despite the best minds in the business being focused on capturing Sami, they appear to have missed the most important clues of all…

A great read that really pulls no punches when exposing the role of the media in constructing heroes and villains,  Bombproof is for those who  love a terrific crime tale, a swift and spine-chilling thriller and /or are fans of Robotham’s work or , like me, all three. No doubt,  Bombproof is an explosive read(Sorry, terrible, but I couldn’t resist).

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Book Review: The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

I have a complaint to make about Michael Robotham’s books, or rather, the effect they’re having on me – they have turned me into an insomniac. From the moment I pick up one of his novels until I turn the last page, I am unable to sleep. Last night, The Wreckage, proved to be no exception and, as a consequence, I feel the book’s title now applies to me J

Seriously, last year, I spent a couple of weeks reading everything of Robotham’s I could get my hands on and loved every story, character, plot and word. I deliberately saved this book for my holidays, knowing I’d be guaranteed at least one terrific read. I was not disappointed.

Once the disturbing prologue is out of the way, The Wreckage commences by introducing us to a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Luca Terracini, who works and lives “outside the wire” in Iraq, hoping to file a world-changing or, at least, war-changing story. When he stumbles on a series of robberies at multinational banks in Baghdad, and uncovers shady financial deals in the process, Terracini may just have been handed either the Holy Grail of journalism or a death sentence.

Segue to London and one of my favourite characters in crime/thriller fiction, retired cop, Vincent Ruiz. On the eve of his daughter’s marriage, hard on the outside but soft-as-a-marshmallow-on-the-inside Ruiz is conned by a needy and attractive young girl in a clever grift. When her partner is found brutally tortured and dead, Ruiz understands that, not only is this young girl in danger, but also she has inadvertently exposed a conspiracy that could overturn not just the British banking system, but rock the foundations of the global economy and bring down the careers of  powerful and dangerous men as well.

And so, the story is established. Larger in scope than his other novels, Robotham tackles the greedy, mystifying world of international banking, taxation fraud, funded terrorism, and uses the world as his stage.

When I first started reading this book, I was disappointed that Joe O’Loughlin and Ruiz didn’t feature that, instead, this new character, Luca, and the Middle East, took centre stage. But, as the action proceeds and the pace becomes utterly relentless, my initial misgivings were soon forgotten as Luca and the clever accountant he befriends, Daniela, start to rattle the local authorities’ nerves and become established as characters the reader loves and who possess resolve and integrity.

Enter, Ruiz, stage right (yay!) and the story, which was already moving apace, begins to accelerate, speeding through countries, characters and a growing body count without pausing for breath. Suspense builds as does the reader’s anticipation and our level of care for the characters and the situations they are placed in. I think this is Robotham’s real strength. Despite this fabulous tempo, and the complexity of the tale, never once does Robotham forget about the characters that give his story heart, that flesh out the plots and endows them and their consequences with a terrible humanity. Even the most hateful of individuals are given a context, and thus their deeds meaning – all of which makes the approaching climax the more nail-biting, the more suspenseful.

Motives and machinations are assigned to various people and organisations, from the CIA, MI6, or the huge bank, Mersey Fidelity, to a personal assistant, young jihadist, or ambitious brother, exposing the absence (or deliberate denial) of an ethical framework. Truth is absent from the commercial wheelings and dealings taking place; ambition is king. Thank goodness then for Ruiz and O’Loughlin who shine wherever and whenever they appear and yet, for all their heroics, also have feet of clay and Ruiz particularly, a knack for attracting trouble.

So does Terracini. When he and Ruiz finally encounter each other and understand they’re on the same side, the stage is set for a showdown of epic proportions.

What I love about Robotham’s books is that amidst the large-scale crimes and their ripple effect are all-important themes. In The Wreckage, truth and lies play an important role, not simply because the main characters search and long for the truth, but because it’s absence is revealed as the first serious casualty in the breakdown of personal, professional and international relationships. Truth is not just a word or an ideal in this book, but a moral code and those who choose to live by it suffer and are rarely rewarded for their principles.

Another theme is that of family – whether it’s how we establish and keep one together, or how easily they can be torn apart. How one decision, one misjudgement can hurt so many but also, how in the end, family (the real or pseudo kind) is all, for better or worse, we have. It’s this kind of thought-provoking and beautifully rendered theme that places Robotham above the average (and even above-average) thriller writers and which give his books unexpected richness and depths.

The Wreckage is a marvellous rollercoaster of a read that I literally could not put down. Robotham has done it again. And, while I am sleep-deprived and exhausted, I can’t wait for him to write another novel – please, Michael, I want some more!

 

 

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