Title: The Watchers
Author: Jon Steele
Release Date: 7th June 2012
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fiction
Source: The Publishers
Rating: 4 out of 5
" Lausanne, Switzerland.
In the cathedral tower lives a strange boy with a limp who talks to the bells.
In a luxury penthouse lives a high-class prostitute who's in mortal danger.
And in a low-rent hotel lives a private investigator who has no idea how he got there.
Jay Harper finds himself in Switzerland on the trail of a missing Olympic athlete. A hard drinker, he can barely remember how he got home last night, let alone why he accepted this job. When he meets the stunning but aloof Katherine in a hotel bar, he quickly realises that he's not the only one in town who's for hire. She's a high-class hooker who can't believe her luck. Which is about to change. For the worse.
In the meantime, Marc Rochat spends his time in the belfry talking to the statues, his cat and the occasional ghost. His job is to watch over Lausanne at night and to wait for the angel his mother told him he'd one day have to save. When he sees Katherine, he thinks his moment has come. Which indeed it has. But not in a good way...
Narration is in the third person via Marc Rochat, Katherine Taylor and Jay Harper. The first book in a trilogy but could be stand alone. The sequels are Angel City and The Way of Sorrows.
The Watchers immediately grabbed my interest with the opening prologue which is set during the First World War. It is so beautifully written creating an haunting, ethereal atmosphere to the start of the novel. I wondered, once into the main story, where this fitted in and connected with the main characters. It was not until I finished the book that I understood and re-read the prologue which then had another meaning and was just as magical.
The Watchers main story shifts to present day Switzerland. The first 200-300 pages were spent introducing the main characters, Mark with an intended Quasimodo similarity; Katherine, an intensely dislikable character to begin with, a tart with a heart; and Jay the 'detectiveman' who has no memory of how he arrived in Switzerland, only that he remembers waking up and accepting a job, he cannot refuse, working for the IOC.
Unfortunately I very nearly gave up reading at this point. I really couldn't see where it was going and was becoming irritated at nothing happening. Then ***BAMM*** did it start ! I was on a roller coaster ride from there on in. I really could not put the book down. This is not to say that I believe there should be editing here, as once into the meaty part of the story I realised that I'd gained a depth and wealth of knowledge about the character's personalities and psyches, enough to make me care too much to give up on them.
I grew to love the main characters and one, Katherine in particular annoyed me immensely to begin with but as her character developed I became accustomed to her personality and came to like her a great deal.
Mark, a charming child like 21 year old with a limp, is the guardian of Lausanne Cathedral. He lives in an imaginary world watching over the city, waiting for the Angel that his mother said would come to him for help. Mark believes that Katherine is that Angel.
Jay, my favourite, was an intreaging character. A loner, or man with a mission, a man who likes a drink, with a dry sense of humour and acerbic quip. Who is he ? Where did he come from? Where is he going ? I looked forward to finding the answers.
Mystery, crime/detective noir, sci fi elements, magical fantasy ... I really couldn't categorise this one with any one label as it delves into many genres. Once the supernatural element finally reveals itself however, all the mystery and intrigue was over and I felt a little flat. The surprise was over and I wondered if I would lose interest. It just didn't feel that I was reading the same novel and that it had drifted off into a totally different field. Think Matrix, Dan Brown and Jason Bourne with the battle against good and evil. A little over the top from what had come before. Again though, I kept 'with it' because I had faith in the author by now, and it righted itself. I guess there's more explanation and character development to come in the sequels.
Even with the slight disappointment, Jon Steele is an amazing writer creating an intreaging, atmospheric and magical world with characters I cared, and enjoyed, reading about.
I look forward to reading 'Angel City' very soon.
Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review 'The Watchers'.