Review

Keeping Watch

by Laurie R. King



Laurie King has gained herself an enthusiastic new fan. If all of
her books are as well crafted as KEEPING WATCH, I'll be digging
through library shelves to find every one.

To start, Ms. King gives us a glimpse into Vietnam veteran Allen
Carmichael's life now, then takes us deep into his past to show us
what formed the man he has become. The tour of duty the naïve
young student signed on for in 1967 changed nearly everything about
him. Most of the first 90 pages are devoted to the business of war
and the shaping of a soldier, Allen Carmichael in particular.
Putting aside my personal feelings about war --- and that war in
particular --- I found myself fascinated by the sights, sounds,
smells and emotions Ms. King's descriptions evoked. The jungle grew
to life on her pages and her hero, questionable though he sometimes
might be, was catapulted from a patriotic college kid into an adult
with keen abilities no parent wants their child to possess, let
alone sharpen. But that's how Allen survived.

Once back Stateside, he tried to fit into a society that held
wildly divergent views on its Vietnam veterans. As we know, their
homecoming wasn't the grand welcome of a country's bravest and most
devoted citizens. In the year he'd been gone, much had changed ---
a lot of it inside himself. So when he tried to pick up where he
had left off --- with college, with women, with career plans --- he
struggled to find relevance in his choices. What Allen finally fell
into, while admittedly illegal, was nonetheless noble and had the
added benefit of helping him make amends for the horror that was
Vietnam.

Allen Carmichael rescues abused women and children. He spent two
and a half decades building a network of sensors, helpers,
facilitators and foster homes, learning how to gather evidence and
when to bring the authorities into the case. Now the time has come
for him to retire. His last rescue, that of 12-year-old Jameson
Patrick O'Connell, should have been routine. However, it's anything
but. He watches Jameson (Jamie) at home, researches his father ---
a widower who is quite well off --- and gets a feel for Jamie among
his classmates. What Allen sees of Jamie's relationship with his
father pushes him to a hasty acceleration of his normal
timetable.

Jamie's new life starts out smoothly enough, but then Allen
receives a letter from the foster family, which makes the hairs on
his neck stand on end. The prickles of doubt send him scurrying to
retrace his steps and dig deeper into the O'Connell family
background. In the course of his second investigation, he finds
that things aren't what they at first appeared. Now, he has to
decide whether he has misjudged young Jamie and how the father
really fits into the picture. When the elder O'Connell's plane goes
missing, Allen wrenches Jamie from his new life and tries to fit
the pieces of the puzzle into a sensible scenario. It is relentless
action from that point on.

This is a sobering look at abuse --- psychological and physical ---
and a quick peek at an ill-managed war. Today, while we are in the
midst of another military conflict with less-than-worldwide
support, KEEPING WATCH seems particularly timely. It gives us
insights into the soldier's world that, hopefully, will help us
understand and honor our troops as they come home. More
importantly, maybe it will give us a heightened sense of the damage
any type of abuse inflicts on people --- children especially ---
and help us stamp it out before it ruins more lives. Of course,
while gaining these valuable insights, we're treated to an
excellent read. Just excellent.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011

Keeping Watch
by Laurie R. King

  • Publication Date: March 4, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801910
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801910