Watches of the Night
Review: A dedicated researcher and a finalist for the 2001 Edgar Allen Poe award, Sally Wright has taken the facts of a WWII biographical story told to her by a colleague, embellished them with her imagination, and turned out a gripping story of stolen industrial secrets, battlefield courage, identity theft and a series of callous murders. Switching back and forth between settings in the 1940s and the 1960s, the novel's episodes of European wartime valour contrast with the tensions of postwar America where university archivist Ben Reese struggles with the memory of a front line incident that continues to bedevil him and a current power struggle that threatens his livelihood and future career. His situation worsens when he learns that author Kate Lindsay, the widow of his deceased long-time friend, has received a package mailed near war's end that contains an eyeball, presumably her husband's. The adventures the two friends encounter in determining who sent the grisly memento, when and why make for an exciting and entertaining read.
Wright's sense of timing for maximum suspense is spot on. She knows how to pull the reader in and when to end one scene and begin the next while scattering clues along the way. There's the scene early on, for example, with one GI stealing another's dog tags and the immediate impression somebody's up to no good. The climactic scenes of Ben in a commando style rescue of a trussed-up Lindsay are particularly tense and reminiscent of an action-filled James Bond sequence. Wright's characters are well depicted too. Ben's war-time heroism and his former struggles with his lengthy rehab for his war wounds make him all the more likeable as he tussles with his immediate supervisor and the President of Hillsdale Ohio's Alderton University. The death of his wife four and a half years earlier elicits more sympathy, and helps explain his tentativeness in establishing a relationship with Lindsay. But the potential is there. He's a horse lover as well which is another assist to his portrayal as an all round character. In the end, though, it's his grit and determination to bring a murderer to justice that makes him such a compelling hero. Lindsay is right for her part too as a take-charge individual who can recognize a clue and chase down a suspect just like one of the characters in the novels she writes. And with Ben's interest in Renaissance jewellery and rare books, and with the novel's settings in the US, Rome, Scotland and Tuscany, there's lots of scope for Wright to display the results of her intriguing research in support of her story.
Publish and Perish, Pride and Predator, Pursuit and Persuasion and Out of the Ruins are the previous titles in the Ben Reese series. A sixth volume, entitled Code of Silence, a prequel to the series, is due for US release in January 2009. Worth watching for, given Wright's track record.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (email@example.com) for contributing his review of Watches of the Night.
Acknowledgment: Breakthrough Promotions provided a copy of Watches of the Night for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Location(s) referenced in Watches of the Night: Oxford, England, Rome, Scotland, Tuscany
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Watches of the Night by Sally Wright — A Ben Reese Mystery
Publisher: Severn House
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $28.95