Mulholland Books, 400 pages, $26
Once again, in his latest entry in the O’Loughlin-Ruiz series set in England, author Michael Robotham concentrates more on psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin than on retired police detective Vincent Ruiz. I prefer the Ruiz stories, because Joe’s life is more to be pitied (and I’m not referring to his Parkinson’s disease) than Ruiz’s pick-yourself-up-and-dust-yourself-off one. Robotham can write Joe’s thoughts with more flourish and nuance, so he’s the more obvious literary choice. Despite my leaning heavily in favor of Ruiz’s stories, “Close Your Eyes,” the tenth in the series, is both exciting and poignant. And Ruiz makes a small but significant appearance.
The story thus far: Joseph O’Loughlin was a successful practicing psychologist in London, with a wife and two young girls. A dark cloud hovered over him briefly when he was a suspect in a murder investigation carried on by DI Vincent Ruiz. Joe and Ruiz have become best friends over the course of the books. They are as close as brothers, while being physically, temperamentally, and intellectually different. Ruiz has had many wives. Joe’s marriage has crumbled, although he carries tattered hopes that one day it might be patched up. Early on, at much too young an age, Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His symptoms have steadily gotten worse, but not enough to curtail a limited involvement with police activities, even though Ruiz has retired. Before the breakup, Joe and his family moved to a quaint village near Bath, but after the breakup, he returned to London to work.
In summing up this time, Joe says, “I am not the same person I was a decade ago. Existence has become infinitely more complex and less joyful.”
Joe’s sorrow over his domestic situation has haunted the books. He loves his daughters and longs for his wife. They are his weakness and occasionally have been in peril because of that. Joe is surprised when his wife, the eternally perfect and unobtainable Julianne, asks him to move in for the summer to help take care of the girls while they are on school holiday. Their oldest, Charlie, has just graduated and is contemplating a college major in forensic psychology, following in her father’s footsteps. This is daunting to both her parents, because she was kidnapped and traumatized when she was younger by one of her father’s foes. Nevertheless, she talks her father into letting her help — mostly by driving — him with his latest case.
Against his better judgment, Joe has answered a call from Veronica Cray, DCS of the serious crime squad and Ruiz’s antagonistic ex-colleague. In a case a little too close to home, a mother and teenage daughter have been killed. Soon Joe and the police figure out that it is part of a series of crimes that have been growing in gravity and intensity. Joe would pull back from this investigation were it not for the presence of “The Mindhunter,” a third-rate, ex-psychology student of his. Because of The Mindhunter's ill-advised efforts, the case suffers a setback. Although Joe now has other personal worries and responsibilities, he throws his weight behind the investigation.
As the complexities of the case continue to rise, Joe ponders how difficult it actually may be to solve a case in which there are now many more players and suspects. He muses:
Up until now I’ve had some vague notion that I might stumble upon the key that unlocks this crime — a cache of family papers, or a diary, or a bundle of love letters — but nothing is going to arrive in the post or fall into my lap.
Robotham is good at presenting thrilling conclusions to his books. This one is no exception and is further compounded by an untenable dilemma at the end that will bring out the hankies. This is another wonderful book by Michael Robotham in a series about a man who constantly has to make difficult moral choices. Welcome to Joe’s world.