The Tarnished Eye

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Judith Guest is probably best known for her novel Ordinary People, which was turned into an award-winning motion picture.  In her book The Tarnished Eye, Guest gives us a completely different kind of story, but with the same intuitiveness about why people do the things they do.

The novel is based on the true story of a murder that happened in Northern Michigan.  In the fictionalized version, a family of six, the Norbois family, is brutally murdered while at their vacation home in Blessed, Michigan.  Sheriff DeWitt, still recovering from the SIDS death of his infant son two years earlier, is emotionally ill-prepared to investigate this crime, yet he feels a strong desire to see the perpetrator brought to justice.  His investigations take him to Ann Arbor, where the police chief is having troubles of his own in the form of a serial killer who is preying on young women at the University of Michigan campus.  Despite the fact that each of the Norbois family seems to have someone who might want to kill them, the investigation leads both men to the conclusion that their cases are linked.

The writing is spare, but the emotions are strong.  Through a series of flashbacks to the days before their deaths, Guest paints a picture of the Norbois family that makes you want to find their killer almost as much as Sheriff DeWitt does.  DeWitt himself as the main character begins to come to terms with the tragedy in his own life through the course of the investigation, and you feel for him as a grieving father as much as you respect him as a dogged investigator.  The setting didn't hurt my appreciation for the book.  My parents live near Traverse City in exactly the same kind of resort area that the book describes, and many of the real places mentioned in the book are places I've been.  All in all it was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to any mystery lover.

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