Lausanne, Switzerland, gothic cathedrals, talk of angels, a man in the belfry calling the hour, a hooker, and a man with no memory. The Watchers is a book full of strange people and places but somehow they all work beautifully together.
In the first part of The Watchers, we get to know the characters, peek in on their lives, and in the second part, we watch all of the characters’ lives collide in some way or another.
Katherine Taylor is a high priced hooker hiding out in Switzerland. She enjoys her life, the money, and has let herself feel safe in all her choices up till now. Even though she’s convinced herself that she’s made the right move, some things about her life do bother her when she looks past the fancy clothes and money but she carries on wanting to get the most out of the situation believing she can go back at any time. Marc Rochat is the last of a dying breed — he calls the hour at the Lausanne Cathedral spending his days talking to the bells, shoeing pigeons out of the way, and unintentionally spying on the city and its inhabitants. One night Marc sees Jay Harper standing on the bridge and in his own innocent way, believes him to be some sort of investigator out looking for clues. He gets into his head that he too should be on watch with all the strange happenings around the city, including several gruesome murders no one seems to be able to explain.
This book has a lot going on but don’t let that deter you. The mix is odd, but the setting, which is dark but familiar, makes it work. I started out thinking this was a thriller and was sure I was going to see every character die a gruesome death and in at least one case that does happen. All the problems the characters face are real even if they might have an extraordinary/paranormal explanation. For instance, Marc Rochat may be a simple man with very little ambition and naïve in the ways of the world but he seems to see and understand more of what’s going on than most of the people in town. Katherine Taylor, hooker extraordinaire, was annoying but sympathetic and other than learning some humility, I’m not sure she learned much of anything but I wasn’t expecting that to happen. Now, Jay Harper. Is he a detective or a paid spy? He’s a man with no memory of his life before a phone call a few weeks back. He remembers nothing before coming to Lausanne and meeting an odd group of people for a job he doesn’t know if he’s qualified to complete or not. You know he’s part of a bigger plan.
I’ll admit that the ending was not what I was expecting but I went with it and found I liked where it led even if I wasn’t so sure about it. It didn’t ruin anything for me and I sometimes like it when an author tests my ability for the realities I expect. There is some graphic violence in this book but I wasn’t particularly bothered by it mostly because it fit with the story and I didn’t feel it was added for show.
Bottom line — The Watchers an interesting book from a new author I’d like to read more of. Steele took the elements of an old city, made them feel even older, darker, sadder, and topped it with characters that made me unable to stop reading. My copy of The Watchers topped out at 574 and felt like a mere 200 pages to me.
By Jon Steele
Blue Rider Press