Strange. This week I read two books that had watches as a key element of the plot. Of course, the books took place a hundred fifty years apart, and the first book’s main character would have been astonished at the concept of a digital watch without moving cogs and such. Still, I found the use of “wrist chronometers,” as the woman in the movie Guys and Dolls calls them, fun!
Even more fun was this romantic suspense novel.
Dead Man’s Watch has everything I love in a good mystery/suspense. This book has both. In fact, this book has one thing that few mysteries do.
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Dead Man’s Watch Did It. It Made Me Believe the Lie.
I’ve said it often, and I’ll probably say it again. I usually figure out the “whodunnit” in books pretty easily. All I need to make me consider a mystery a success is for me to doubt myself, make the “why” be something I didn’t see coming, or something like that.
So, when a book actually gets me to latch onto the wrong person as the culprit, well… It’s a TOTAL win.
And yeah. One red herring was so perfectly imperfect that I bought it as the real deal and was convinced that the true killer was the red herring. Oh, and the author, Kay DiBibanca did it without writing an overly complicated plot. She wrote a strong, multi-layered and faceted story, but she didn’t complicate things for their own sakes.
This book has a lot going for it.
Kathryn and CeCe have a fun and unique relationship that feels natural and makes you want to spend time with them. Phil and Ben are interesting people, and even Blake (the primary suspect) makes you care about him and his plight. I mean, there was a minute there when I decided that if he did murder the guy, well… I understood. Didn’t make it right, but I was glad I wouldn’t have to haul him in for it.
Add to that the unusual inclusion of a Messianic congregation, someone who actually enjoys running and considers it “fun” (and I believed her!), and just enough red herrings to keep me guessing and you have a solid book you do NOT want to put down.
Are there problems?
Sure. Let’s face it. Almost every book has some to someone! My biggest objection in this one kind of surprises me. Phil is a bit overbearing in his “demands” on Kathryn, but that didn’t bother me. People do that. Fear for another person can make any of us become downright smothering about things.
What bothered me most was how someone as independent as Kathryn accepted the intrusion (at this point in their relationship, I considered it an intrusion). Odd thing is, I’m not usually a big feminist or anything, but it just raised a few hackles I didn’t even know I had.
Additionally, Blake’s father-in-law and his “He couldn’t give my little girl all the stuff she deserved so she became a druggie” and “she could have married a lawyer or a doctor” were both weak and cliched. I’m sorry, but “lawyer or doctor” feels ripped out of the forties or fifties and just fell flat. Someone becoming a drug addict because her husband couldn’t give her a lavish lifestyle–that doesn’t hold water, either.
Did these problems kill my enjoyment of the story?
Nope. Not at all, actually. DiBianca made the characters in Dead Man’s Watch so realistic to me that I just got annoyed with them instead of their author. Well played, Ms. DiBianca. Well played.
Recommended for lovers of romantic suspense and for folks who like to see different pockets of the church explored in fiction. Thank you to the author/publisher for providing a review copy. I’ve not allowed that to influence my review.
Book: Dead Man’s Watch
Author: Kay DiBianca
Genre: Cozy mystery
Release date: September 2020
Half-sisters Kathryn Frasier and Cece Goldman stumble into another mystery in this second book in the Watch series. When a former acquaintance of Kathryn’s is accused of murder, she and Cece go on a mission to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. But things are never what they seem in this tangled web, and Kathryn’s spunky determination to solve the mystery pushes her closer and closer to a deadly climax.
Join the adventure as these two young women commit themselves to live up to the quote from the Jerusalem Talmud: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.