Friday Reads: The 13th Hour

Today’s Friday review: The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch

Nicholas Quinn is under arrest for the murder of his wife, Julia.  When a stranger enters the police interrogation room and gives Nick a mysterious watch that sends him back in time, allowing him to relive the day one hour at a time – in reverse – Nick must use the unexpected gift to try and save both his wife and himself.  Unfortunately, each hour’s discoveries – and mistakes – increase the urgency and complexity of Nick’s mission, until he faces the beginning of the day and his final chance to set things right.

Short review: Highly recommended.  Richard Doetsch’s inspired decision to tell a murder mystery/thriller in reverse leads to a fast-paced ride with many unexpected twists.

Available through Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle formats.

Full review (without spoilers) follows below the fold:

I had never read any of Doetsch’s books before this one, and was initially attracted to it primarily because of the novelty.  The idea of telling a story in reverse, particularly a mystery, is simple conceptually but very difficult in execution.  Doetsch manages to make the complexity seem simple to the reader, but he also ties off all the loose ends and manages to make the story fresh each time the hero “lives through it” – without ever letting events happen the same way twice.

The pacing starts fast and never slows down, though there is enough give and take in each chapter to keep the reader from feeling rushed.  A couple of the time jumps occur at predictable moments, but let’s be honest – if a real human hero had a time-jumping watch, he’d let himself get into some sticky situations too, knowing that on the hour he’d be whisked out of harm’s way. Doetsch doesn’t overuse the technique, and he balances it with a couple of other jumps that happen “just a minute too early” for the hero to finish what he intended (hesitation kills, as the saying goes) so on the whole it doesn’t seem contrived.

As an added bonus (and an unexpected one in this genre) Doetsch’s hero, Nick Quinn, actually learns something about himself in the course of the book and develops as a character and a person.  It’s rare to see an action hero with a transformative inner arc, and though this one doesn’t have the depth that you’d find in a literary novel, under the circumstances I’d say he does all he has time for.

I will be buying another of Doetsch’s books after reading this one, and in the mystery/thriller genre that counts as a “highly recommended” read.  I didn’t see the ending coming (another bonus – I was one of those people who could have spoiled The Sixth Sense for everyone around me had I wanted to) and I expect a lot from the pacing in a thriller.  This one delivered.

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