Review

Dead Watch

by John Sandford



DEAD WATCH is the title of John Sandford's newest novel. He has won
a great following with his series of Lucas Davenport procedurals
and the lesser known Kidd books. Now, he has chartered new
territory and entered the dark side of partisan politics. His new
hero is Jacob Winter, an accomplished military man, a respected
author of influential political books such as WINTER'S GUIDE TO THE
INSIDE, a map and guide to the military/intelligence complex that
had become "the bestselling Pentagon samizdat [and] had also got
him a part-time job with the second most important man in the
country...Bill Danzig, the president's chief of staff. Jake is a
fixer...he [finds] things out; [is] the Sam Spade of the circular
file, the Philip Marlowe of the burn bag." And in DEAD WATCH he has
his work cut out for him.


His new assignment is to find former Virginia senator Lincoln Bowe,
who has mysteriously vanished. Bowe, a feisty, outspoken maverick,
attacks with no mercy whenever he sees corruption in the government
and the world. Madison Bowe, his wife, has made public statements
wherein she blames the Watchmen, a group created by Governor Arlo
Goodman, for her husband's disappearance and probable murder.


Her lawyer, Johnson Black, explains to her that Jake Winter has
been chosen to find Lincoln. [He works] "for the government as a
consultant...[he] specializes in 'forensic bureaucracy.' When
something goes wrong [he tries] to find out what really
happened. If there's some really screwed-up problem, that nobody
can fix, and that must be fixed, Jake fixes it. He has ears all
over the bureaucracy...he scares the heck out of those people. And
that's what's got to be done if you want to find Linc."


She is not impressed and angrily tells Winter and Black: "The
Watchmen are like the Klan, or the Mafia, or the Gestapo. They take
their orders from Goodman. If Lincoln's never found, and nobody is
ever caught, people become even more afraid of the Watchmen. That's
what they want. They want the fear. They want control. Who benefits
if we don't find Lincoln? The Watchmen do." They may have started
as a group of "Old Boy Scouts" but they are on an evil mission to
infiltrate communities around the country and to influence voters
to put Goodman in the White House. What, she cries, can a
"bureaucracy hunter" do in the face of this tightly run and violent
group?


As calmly as he can, Winter explains to the fiery Madison Bowe:
"The president has ordered me to find Senator Bowe. I'm going to
start kicking bureaucrats, I'm going to raise hell over at Justice,
with the FBI, with Homeland Security, and I'm going to talk to
Governor Goodman" and make him tell me what if anything his
"Watchmen" may have to do with Lincoln's disappearance. "Your
husband is too important a public figure to disappear on his own.
There's a concept...called The Rule...you ask, 'Who
benefits?
' You will find the answer to any political or
bureaucratic question, if you can answer that one correctly."


John Sandford is at his best creating believable characters and
placing them in seemingly untenable situations. But he can also be
relied upon to guide readers through his labyrinthine multi-layered
plots. He brings a steady hand to his narrative and his prose is
tight and succinct.


On his homepage he relates the genesis of DEAD WATCH (readers who
check will understand the irony of the title). He says: "The book
is more episodic than earlier books: it doesn't have the smooth
transition between scenes...the 'grease,' that makes a novel
smoother. One reason for that is that Fate showed up again...My
wife...stopped to get gas, and had a seizure. Her breast cancer,
which had been in remission for three years, was back. The end of
the year was taken up with treatments, hospitalizations, and, to be
blunt about it, abject fear (on my part; not hers). She slept most
of the time, for most of a month. I wrote while she slept, because
I couldn't stand to just sit there and look at her.


"I finished the book: but, as I said, without some of the
smoothness that would have been there under other circumstances.
And reading it now, I don't miss it much." And Mr. Sandford
continues: "I'm still writing, though: a new Davenport Prey book is
underway."


   
















Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 29, 2010

Dead Watch
by John Sandford

  • Publication Date: April 24, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425215695
  • ISBN-13: 9780425215692