Watches of the Night
By Sally Wright
A February 2012 Kindle release
Ben Reese is at it again in his latest suspenseful adventure. This time crime novelist Sally Wright takes readers on a sweeping historical journey from 1945 to 1962 over two continents. It is a vast undertaking and in the hands of a lesser write could have been a disaster. I am pleased to note strongly, this is an outstanding novel.
First are the characters. From the intriguing Ben Reese and his fellow army scouts to Raimondo Ricciardi, the Italian Vatican scholar, Wright sketches strong precise lines placing her characters in logical elegant settings that enhance the story and the context. Then comes the setting. Moving from the horrors of the second world war to the relative peace of a small Midwestern university in such a way that firm connections and motivations stir similar emotions is quite a feat and Wright accomplishes this more than once in the novel. The result is a novel well rooted in places where the action fits tightly.
The plot is first rate and if the author occasionally strays into meditative ruminations, those asides tend to only momentarily slow the pace.
The story has its roots in incidents on the Western Front in 1945. Germany is crumbling and the Allies are desperate to acquire as much technology from the German scientific community as possible. Frequent forays behind German lines to collect data and experimental results occur almost constantly. In spite of the considerable dangers, Army scouts lead technical teams into the field. Ben Reese is one such scout. He discovers the possibility that the technical leader of one such team is working more assiduously for his personal gain than for the broader mission. Has he become a murderer?
Years later, what Reese observed in 1945 continues to gnaw at his conscience and then a series of seemingly isolated deaths reawakens Reese’s concerns to a significantly higher level. Reese’s post-war work as a journeyman archivist with an academic appointment both enhances his ability to act and heightens his moral awareness. The two plot lines are nicely blended.
As always, meticulous research lays a strong foundation for the actions of the novel and readers may well be surprised to learn of some of the activities of their government in past years. Although fiction, the novel and the series are strongly based in the real world, and thoughtful readers will learn a good deal about the historical context of today’s world and at the same time have a rousing and enjoyable reading experience.