The Tarnished Eye

by Judith Guest

You hear (or read) the name "Judith Guest" and you think ORDINARY
PEOPLE. And that creates … expectations. About the last thing
you expect is a mystery. One can sympathize with Guest's publicist,
who must spend time in equal shares explaining what THE TARNISHED
EYE, Guest's newest book, is and is not. The best place to begin
for our purposes would be to state that it is not a disappointment;
it is indeed very, very good.

Guest's prose is spare, which is not to say it's simple. She simply
does not waste words, and uses them well. Her narration --- here
she uses the third person present --- compels and commands reading;
there is no way to put down THE TARNISHED EYE once you have begun

Guest's tale is based on two true-life crimes that occurred in
Michigan in the 1960s. One of them --- the brutal murder of a
family of six in northern Michigan --- abruptly intrudes into the
life of Hugh DeWitt, the Sheriff of otherwise idyllic Blessed,
Michigan. DeWitt, still grieving over the loss of his infant son
years before, is emotionally ill-prepared to investigate the
carnage that he finds at the summer home of the wealthy Norbois
family from Ann Arbor.

DeWitt nonetheless doggedly investigates the matter, and soon finds
that suspects abound. Paige Norbois was having an affair, while her
husband Edward had discovered that his business partner was
embezzling from the company. One of their sons had a confrontation
with a couple of ne'er-do-wells from the town on the night of the
murders, and a local handyman is caught absconding with evidence at
the scene of the crime.

DeWitt's investigation takes him to Ann Arbor, which is awash in
terror, thanks to the serial murders of four young women. DeWitt is
troubled by some of the similarities between the Ann Arbor murders
and the Norbois killings. When Norbois's business partner commits
suicide, it appears that DeWitt's investigation has come to a
close. It is in fact, however, only beginning. DeWitt's plodding
but methodical investigative style is extremely effective. He never
draws his gun, or even raises his hand in anger throughout the
course of THE TARNISHED EYE. Indeed, all of the violent acts giving
impetus to the investigations take place off of the page, but the
overriding impression is that DeWitt is a force to be reckoned
with, a man who should not be underestimated.

Guest is not a prolific author, but what she perhaps lacks in
quantity she makes up for in quality. THE TARNISHED EYE, as with
all of her work, has been worth waiting for and will hopefully
expose her to a new and wider audience.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

The Tarnished Eye
by Judith Guest

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0743257367
  • ISBN-13: 9780641816833