"Watcher of the Dark" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Tor Books
Written by Joseph Nassise
2013, 304 pages, Fiction
Released on November 19th, 2013
Back in 2011, I reviewed Eyes to See, the first book in Joseph Nassise's Jeremiah Hunt series. Blinded, in the contemporary sense, by a procedure involving some dark magic that ended up allowing him to see the dead, Hunt used this gift (or curse, depending) to assist the police in solving cases, while searching for his daughter who had been missing for years. Eyes to See introduced me to Hunt's world of demons, ghosts, shapeshifters, wizards, witches, and more, and I enjoyed every bit of it. I'm thinking mainly because Hunt is such a bitter, angry asshole but incredibly likeable. You neither fault him for his rage, nor blame him for it.
King of the Dead followed, picking up a short time after Eyes to See ended, with our heroes on the run from the police and FBI for crimes they did not commit. They ended up in New Orleans due to visions of Denise, a powerful witch. One thing led to another, demons got killed, people almost died, and the novel ended with Hunt still on the run, seemingly unable to catch a break. Which leads us to this third book in the series: Watcher of the Dark.
Like King of the Dead, Watcher of the Dark starts not long after the prior novel. Hunt is hiding out in a hotel room in LA, his current abode after leaving New Orleans, when he's forcibly taken by a group of people (who naturally are not your run-of-the-mill normies) under the orders of the Carlos Fuentes. Seems like Fuentes has uses for Hunt's unique abilities, and the powerful wizard forces Hunt to help him with the threat of killing his friends Denise and Dmitri (who are still in New Orleans) if he doesn't. Hunt reluctantly agrees, but only until he can figure out a way to guarantee the safety of his loved ones.
I've really liked the "The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle" (as the series is called) since the first book, and Watcher of the Dark is no exception. The main reason is Hunt is a very real, very believable character. The man is seemingly always angry, rarely trusting, and generally conniving. But underneath his gruff exterior, there's also a lot of genuine pain due to the losses he has suffered and you really feel and root for him. This may not be a guy you'd want over for Friday Fun Night because he can be a downer with his solemn attitude, but you'll want him watching your back every day of the week because the loyalty he shows the people in his circle. He will (and has) risk life and limb to protect his friends.
There are a couple of other reasons why this series is exceptional. The first is Joseph Nassise is not lazy with his writing. A great example of this is where in Eyes to See we learned that Hunt can call upon two ghosts, Whisper and Scream, when he needs the kind of help that only they can provide. Whisper he can use for things like allowing him to borrow her sight, Scream for just kicking ass (and, trust me, I'm understating that). But the thing is, in King of the Dead the two were barely around, and here the two spirits are flat out avoiding Hunt. I've seen it too many times where writers will use characters such as these as a crutch to get their players out of trouble, and it's just lazy. (For you fans of Supernatural, I dare you to say Castiel wasn't used like this more times than it should have been.) Nassise not only avoids this common pitfall, he manages to weave a fantastic reason why Whisper and Scream aren't acknowledging Hunt's calls, which leads me to the second thing I love about Nassise's writing: he doesn't bother to dumb it down for the reader.
At one point Hunt reaches out to Whisper in order for her to assist him with a particular situation. At first, his calls to her go unanswered, but after some persistence she finally heeds his call, only to be fearful of him and ignore his commands of her. Frustrated with her reaction, Hunt yells at her – something he's never done – which suddenly brings the wrath of Scream. Fortunately, the two spirits disappear before any damage is done, but Hunt – like the reader – is left wondering why the two acted like they did because it goes against everything we've known about them up until this point. But, here's the thing: Nassise never explains directly why the two acted like they did. There is definitely a reason for it, and it's one that makes perfect sense, but not once does Nassise take you buy the hand and spoon feed you why Whisper and Scream aren't big fans of Hunt at the moment. I don't even think the two are even brought up again after the incident. I'm a fan of this sort of thing.
If there's one downside to Watcher of the Dark, it's that there's not enough of Denise and Dmitri. For those who have been keeping up with the series from book one, Hunt's two companions are barely in this story. While I'm well aware that this is the "Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle" and not the "Jeremiah Hunt, Denise, and Dmitri Chronicle", I found the two sorely missed. (To be fair, I also don't like it when Robert Crais writes an Elvis Cole novel with little or no Joe Pike. It just isn't right.) That said, when Denise and Dmitri do show up, you know things are about to hit the fan because together the trio are quite the force to be reckoned with.
If you haven't read the first two novels in this series, realistically you can jump into Watcher of the Dark without too many problems, but I highly recommend you don't. Instead, read Eyes to See and King of the Dead and it will be much more rewarding. It's not clear if The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle is supposed to be simply a trilogy or an unending series, but this reader certainly hopes it's the latter. There's a world of adventures that I suspect Hunt and company can have, and I look forward to Nassise writing more. He's just the storyteller to do it.
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