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Dead Watchby John Sandford
Synopses & Reviews
Through twenty-one novels featuring Lucas Davenport, Kidd, or the razor-edge world of the Night Crew, John Sandford has been writing brilliantly suspenseful, consistently surprising thrillers filled with rich characters and exceptional drama.
But Dead Watch sets a whole new level.
Early morning, Virginia, and a woman is on the run. Her husband, a former U.S. Senator, has been missing for days. Kidnapped? Murdered? She doesn't know, but she thinks she knows who's involved, and why. And that she's next.
Hours later in Washington, D.C., a cell phone rings. The White House chief of staff needs Jacob Winter now. His chief investigator and an Army Intelligence veteran, Winter knows how to move quickly and decisively, but he's never faced a problem like this. The disappearances are bad, but when the blackened body shows up barbed-wired to a tree, Winter knows there is much worse to come. And soon enough, there is. Large forces are at work, determined to do whatever it takes to achieve their ends. Winter will have to use all his resources not only to prevail but also to survive. And so will the nation...
"When Lincoln Bowe, a controversial Republican ex-senator, disappears at the start of this fast-paced thriller from bestseller Sandford (Broken Prey), the White House puts Jacob Winter, a veteran political operative with 'an uncanny ability to navigate the world of bureaucracy,' on the case. Bowe vanished shortly after making a fiery speech denouncing a rival, Arlo Goodman, the governor of Virginia and a demagogue who heads a volunteer militia group known as the Watchmen. When Bowe's burnt and headless corpse turns up, Winter is under even more pressure to discover those behind his murder. Aided by the dead man's attractive and possibly duplicitous widow, Madison, the fixer follows a trail of corpses and deception that suggests the killing may have been a staged piece of theater intended to derail Goodman's ascent to the presidency. Readers interested in a quick diverting romp without much gravitas will enjoy this, but serious Beltway fiction junkies might prefer their political thrillers to be a little more plausible. 500,000 announced first printing. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Twenty years ago John Camp was 42 years old, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and not happy. He was not happy because he had written the same stories — the flood, the tornado, the bloody car crash — year after year with no end in sight. He was also tired of being broke, another occupational hazard, and he looked to fiction for salvation. After a couple of false starts,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) he wrote a serial-killer thriller called 'Rules of Prey' that introduced a freewheeling detective named Lucas Davenport. Camp, using the name John Sandford, has now written 16 'Prey' novels. In recent years he has been paid a $4.5 million advance for each new one, they have first printings of 500,000, and they shoot to the top of the best-seller lists. He now puts much of his income into a foundation to support worthy causes. The 'Prey' novels have been wildly successful because they are wildly entertaining. In terms of readability, of sheer fun, it's the best American crime series since John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books, whose influence on the Davenport books Sandford willingly concedes. The only flaw of the 'Prey' novels is that they're too entertaining. The man throws in everything but the kitchen sink — lists of rock songs, dumb jokes, etc. Sandford can spin a crime story as well as anyone, but he doesn't attempt the seriousness, the unflinching realism, of writers like Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos and Ian Rankin — he chooses to play to the gallery. Sandford would not dispute this. In a droll introduction to a recent edition of 'Rules of Prey,' he said of his hero: 'Cops don't act like Lucas Davenport — they'd be fired or even imprisoned if they did ... he's a cross between a cop and a movie star.' He added, of his plots, 'if I had to make a choice between a good thrill and a good police procedural, I didn't hesitate to throw the procedure overboard.' Besides the 'Prey' series, Sandford has written several stand-alones. 'Dead Watch' is one of those, his first Washington political thriller, and it's far from his best work. The novel is readable enough, and Sandford views the political world with a commendable cynicism, but his story is seriously implausible. It features a Democratic governor of Virginia who's a demagogue and a thug and has a brother who kills people. His bitter rival, a Republican ex-senator from Virginia, turns up dead. He leaves behind a widow who's rich and randy — and who doesn't miss her late husband one little bit, for reasons that become clear. For a hero, we have Jake Winter, formerly of the Special Forces, who was wounded in Afghanistan and now limps and uses a cane but remains one cool dude. The White House assigns troubleshooter Winter to find out who killed the ex-senator and why. Soon we confront an outburst of beatings and murders, a violent political militia called the Watchmen, prominent political figures revealed to be gay, one politician who's decapitated and another who jumps out a fifth-floor window, a scandal involving the vice president, a shootout on the Mexican border and another in the Virginia woods, a media frenzy, a plot to wreck the Democratic convention and, amid the confusion and carnage, sweet love blossoming between our limping hero and the hot-to-trot widow. At the end, for a grand finale, the kitchen sink dances onstage and whistles 'Dixie.' Or did I imagine that? 'Dead Watch' fails as a political novel, not because Sandford is overly cynical about politicians, but because their crimes tend to be somewhat more subtle than the wholesale slaughter presented here. Still, he keeps his fanciful plot spinning merrily, with plenty of sex and scandal, and many beyond-the-Beltway readers will enjoy his portrait of depravity on the Potomac. He tosses in lively lines like 'The media's running around like a herd of weasels' and 'His ex-wife might have been airmailed to him directly from hell.' He tells us that the photographs on a political consultant's wall show 'the faces of fifty politicians, ninety-nine predatory eyes and one black eye-patch worn by the former governor of Colorado.' Alas, we must also endure Sandford's excesses. After the randy widow plants a kiss on the hero's lips, he launches a monologue on kisses: 'There was, in his experience, a wide variety of kisses, ranging from Air, on one end of the spectrum, to Orgasmic on the other. Included were Affectionate, Hot, Friendly, First, Promising, Intense, Good-bye for Good,' and so forth. A bit later, when the lovers move past the first-kiss stage, Sandford has his sophisticated sexpot toss off one of the oldest and dumbest lines you ever chortled at in high school: 'Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?' The man is shameless. And yet Sandford's novels also make clear that he understands the dark, violent, corrupt underside of our society — he just keeps cutting away from it for comic relief. Whenever I read Sandford, I think that if he'd eliminate the cute stuff he could produce a fine, serious, hard-edged novel. He's 62 now and no longer broke, so why keep tap-dancing and whistling 'Dixie'? The problem may be that once you've jousted with Clancy and Grisham and Patterson at the top of the greasy pole, it's hard to let go. In any event, if Sandford has a really good novel in him, this isn't it." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[A] high-octane, low-logic thriller....Not as tightly woven as Sandford's best, but reliable thrills with some unexpected political overtones from a pro's pro." Kirkus Reviews
"Sandford...displays an insider's knowledge of political infighting and couples it with his skill at creating memorable characters working through the maze of a diabolical plot." Booklist
"The novel is readable enough, and Sandford views the political world with a commendable cynicism, but his story is seriously implausible....Still, he keeps his fanciful plot spinning merrily, with plenty of sex and scandal..." Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post Book World
From the author of the #1 bestselling Prey novels comes an extraordinary story of murder, passion, and deadly ambition — a political thriller like no other.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Lucas Davenport novels delivers a page-turner with a new hero, [and a] breakneck pace" (Minneapolis Star Tribune).
Former Sen. Lincoln Bowe, a Republican, has been missing for several days, setting off alarms on both sides of the political aisle. Finally, he is discovered in the remote Virginia woods, barb-wired to a tree, burned almost beyond recognition and missing his head. Democratic research assistant (read: fixer) Jacob Winter, ex-Army Intelligence, wounded in Afghanistan, is called in by the Democratic president to unravel an extremely messy situation and shield his office from any hint of scandal. As this runaway train picks up speed, innocents are murdered, and the guilty come to Jesus
" Sandford is a master at creating believable, indelible characters like Winter [He] is peerless when it comes to economical, taut plotting, most notably at building tension. Dead Watch is anything but politics as usual.”—San Antonio Express-News
About the Author
John Sandford is the pseudonym of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp. Camp was born in 1944 and was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His bestselling novels include Chosen Prey, Naked Prey, and most recently, Broken Prey.
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