You check your email and open a message without a return address. The subject is: Death Watch. It says, "You have been selected for death. Precisely forty-eight hours from the time of this transmission you will die. This is an official death watch notice."
Sydney St. James is a young reporter on KSMJ-TV, channel 2 in Los Angeles. In the opening scenes, Sydney is stuck in a typical traffic jam due to an accident. Later, when assigned to investigate this accident, Sydney presses a local policeman and learns that it is more than a traffic death. It's the seventh sudden death during that particular morning.
As Sydney digs deeper into the story, she discovers this death watch is a worldwide situation where healthy people unexplainably die after their 48-hour notification. The death watch notices have no pattern or consistent target. Beyond the main plot of the death watch, several sub-themes are built into this fascinating novel. Cori Zinn is a jealous, young and ambitious reporter also on the KSMJ-TV staff. At every possible opportunity, Cori tries to turn any attention away from Sydney and toward herself --- whether in a meeting or with a choice assignment. The dynamic creates a realistic inner office rivalry between Cori and Sydney.
Renowned international newscaster Hunz Vonner visits the station and assists Sydney as she tries to unravel the mysterious death watch. The pair, along with a camera crew, set ups close to the 48-hour time limit at healthy 61-year-old Lyle Vandeveer's home. They want to report on the death watch; mysteriously, at exactly the same time, Vandeveer dies on live television.
Sydney discovers a lead as to who's responsible for the death watch from an unusual source --- Reverend Billy Peppers, a street preacher to the homeless. At first her reporter instincts say to ignore this lead. When the death watch becomes personal and connected to her co-workers, Sydney presses beyond her reporter instincts and follows her heart. With her career on the line and her friends facing the death sentence, Sydney makes a leap of faith and discovers an unusual antidote.
While the book is page-turning suspense with a number of twists, ultimately Sydney connects with Rev. Peppers about the reason for the death watch. '"Why now?' she asked him."
"Billy...folded his arms. 'We're approaching the end of history. It'll be different than what has gone on before. History has always focused on political, economic, and social events. It's time for the spiritual to come to the forefront. Soon spiritual events will overshadow everything else. This is but the first step.'"
"Massive, worldwide deaths just to get people thinking about spiritual matters?"
"What is more spiritual than life and death? At birth, the spark of the spiritual animates us; at death, it leaves the body."
A Christy Award winner, Jack Cavanaugh is known for his excellent plots and well-drawn characters in the historical fiction genre with books like PROOF, WHILE MORTALS SLEEP and THE PURITANS. Now, Cavanaugh can attract a new batch of readers with this thought-provoking mystery about sudden death. It could garner some great discussion for a small group, or you could easily spend a couple of evenings engrossed in the drama.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on January 25, 2012