Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Review - "The 13th Hour" by Richard Doetsch

This book turns the suspense genre on its head by opening with the end of the story (literally--the first chapter is Chapter 12) and working backwards through time. It's a clever idea, one that could be difficult to pull off, but after a rough start, this one definitely comes through.

Nick Quinn finds himself in an interrogation room at the police station, being questioned by the only two officers available. A plane has crashed in town, and everyone else is at the site, sifting through the rubble, organizing the scene, and collecting bodies. Nick is the only suspect in his wife's murder, and one of the cops is determined to get a confession out of him.

A man arrives to see Nick, and the officers think he's his lawyer. They leave the two alone, but the man is a stranger to Nick. The stranger gives him a letter and a watch and offers him a chance to live the previous twelve hours over again in an attempt to find his wife's killer and stop him from committing his horrible crime. Nick isn't quite sure how it'll work, but he's so in love with Julia that he resolves to do anything he can to get her back.

Each chapter takes one hour, and with each jump backwards Nick finds another clue about what happened to Julia. It turns out she was supposed to be on the plane that crashed, but she was called off at the last minute to deal with the robbery of a client's house. She's the victim's attorney and the point of contact should anything happen to his priceless art and weapons collection. Nick soon realizes the robbery and Julia's murder are connected, so as he continues through the day in reverse, he has to figure out how to stop the robbery as well as find her killer. Then there's the plane crash--how does that fit into the puzzle?

The story isn't exactly a complex one, especially in the beginning, though it is a bit confusing to figure out the time line while simultaneously trying to learn the rules of time-shifting. Along with Nick, the reader has to remember Who knows what when. Can Nick really change the future? How do his actions affect what had already happened? Will he change the future for the better, or is Julia destined to die no matter what? However, by the end of the book, you probably won't care too much about the minutia because the clues come faster and Nick literally runs out of time to save his wife. Nick does philosophize with his friend Marcus about what he is doing and whether he really can change the future, and while some of this slows down the action, it also allows the reader to ponder destiny versus free will as well. Some details are repeated, which can also bog down the story, but generally another character has taken the stage and so the reader is getting a different perspective. In all, this book is well written and provides a neat twist to the usual mystery. Stick with it through the first three chapters or so and you'll be hooked.

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