A guest review by Jenre
Fabulous character based murder-mystery where art gallery owner, Charles, mourns the death of his sculptor protégé, as well as trying to find answers to why someone would kill the talented and popular man.
London art dealer Charles Garrett has devoted his life to appreciating and acquiring beauty, both in art and in his companions. His fashionable life is rocked to the core when he discovers the body of a young artist, Paolo Valero, in a pool of blood in his gallery.
As Paolo’s mentor, Charles is haunted by the horror of his violent death. Seeking closure, he investigates Paolo’s past and soon discovers a tangled web of motives and potential suspects, some closer to home than he ever imagined. He’s drawn to Antony Walker, an aggressive, handsome sculptor with unsavory ties to Paolo. Charles is unsettled by Antony’s forceful nature but irresistibly attracted to his passion and his art.
When the evidence points toward Antony’s guilt, Charles is thrown into emotional turmoil. Has he lost his heart to a killer?
Charles is the owner of a select art gallery in London. He has worked hard to make it reasonably successful and one way he has achieved that is through supporting new talent. Charles has a gift for spotting new, exciting art and showcasing it in his gallery and none is more provocative and exciting than his new protégé sculptor Paolo. On returning to his gallery late one night, Charles discovers that Paolo has been murdered. Charles is horrified and unable to understand who would murder such a beautiful and talented man, so sets about asking questions and digging into Paolo’s life where he makes a number of startling discoveries.
I’m a complete fan of Clare London’s writing. She has a lushness about her prose, where even the simplest of descriptions is brought to life in vivid, evocative detail. This book is a showcase for that wonderful prose, as we follow first person narrator Charles from one awkward and tricky situation to another. Charles has a great naivety about him, which at times was charming, and at other times led him into dangerous situations. The title of the story is very appropriate in relation to Charles, as he looks for beauty in everything – and indeed is so caught up in beauty that he fails to see the rottenness under the façade. He’s terribly trusting and part of the appeal of this book is that Charles is called to question all his past assumptions, especially about the people he thought he knew well. As he does this, we follow his insecurity and the way his eyes are opened to the truth, which leads to a number of delightful red herrings in the mystery. Like Charles, we don’t know who to trust, who is telling the truth or lies and as a result I was kept guessing right up until the end. Despite this naivety, there’s also a core of strength within Charles. He won’t back down, even from what could be a dangerous situation, leading to some quite alarming scenes. I found myself empathising a great deal with Charles, with his quest for the truth so that he could understand and move on from the horror of Paolo’s murder, and this went a long way to my enjoyment of the book.
Another part which I loved about Blinded by Our Eyes was that much of the mystery is revealed through conversation and dialogue. The setting is very static, moving from the gallery, to Charles’ office, to Antony’s studio with only a couple of other locations to break the pattern. Each shift in setting is lovingly described, telling the reader much information about how Charles views the world, but the main focus of each scene in the book is the dialogue between Charles and the other characters. Clare London is a master (mistress?) of the stilted conversation, where more meaning can be gleaned in a few awkward words and gestures than some authors put into pages of dialogue. As the main thrust of the story hinges of what sort of information Charles can gain from speaking to people, these conversations take on great importance in the book as he, and the reader, slowly piece together what could have happened in the hours leading up to Paolo’s death whilst also trying to sort the truth from the lies. Nothing is wasted in those conversations as each word is used for impact, to show character or to further the mystery. As a result of this the pacing is slow, but steady which I felt was in keeping with the traditional mystery feel to the writing. The final scene where all is revealed was a study in tension, full of symbolism and yet so true to the mystery genre.
The romance between Charles and Antony is secondary to the mystery (in fact they don’t even meet until quite far into the book), and yet it is also an important part of the book. Their meetings are explosive, both in terms of sexual tension and emotional content. Antony is angry and resentful of Charles’ questions and yet there exists a strong sensual pull between them, one which cannot be denied, no matter how much the two men are suspicious of each other. This led to scenes fraught with emotion but simmering with passion. I loved that Antony was so opposite to the urbane sophisticated Charles, and especially liked that Charles was drawn to Anthony’s fierce, fiery personality. Despite their opposite natures the romance worked, and worked so well that I was able to overlook the slightly abrupt instant lust they feel for each other.
Blinded by Our Eyes has to be the best mystery I’ve read this year. It’s character based mystery romance at its best, full of complex characterisation, misdirections and writing that engages all the senses. The mystery is both logical and horrifying; the character of Charles eminently sympathetic as well as frustrating in his naivety. I finished the book amazed at what I had read and completely satisfied with the ending. I can’t recommend this book highly enough and if you only have enough money to buy one new release this week, I suggest you make it this one.