Book Review – ‘The 13th Hour: A Thriller’ by Richard Doetsch
The 13th Hour is the story of a man given the chance to go back in time in one-hour increments to prevent a vicious crime from destroying his life.
Nick Quinn is being held in jail, accused of the murder of his beloved wife, Julia. He knows she’s dead; he saw her bloody corpse, shot in the head at point-blank range. The police tell him they found the murder weapon with his fingerprints on it in the trunk of his car. Nick is confused, grief-stricken–and completely innocent.
At 9 p.m. on July 28, a gray-haired gentleman visits Nick in the police interrogation room and asks him a simple question: “If you could get out of here, if you could save her, would you?” He hands Nick a golden talisman that allows Nick to go back in time, one hour at a time, for a total of twelve hours. With each hour that Nick travels back, he finds more clues to the identity of Julia’s real killer, but he also discovers that his actions in the past may have unexpected repercussions in the future.
Well, I’ll give points to the author, Richard Doetsch, for originality. It’s a pretty intriguing ‘what-if’ concept, to have a novel running backwards. It’s like the anti-24 (television series); instead of advancing in time, the hero goes back in time an hour at a time. And since the whole novel covers half a day, events do get repetitive (not in a bad way, though), with a Groundhog Day-ish element to it.
We start out the novel with a shattered and grieving suspect, Nick Quinn, who is being interrogated at a police station by a good-cop/bad-cop duo (Detectives Dance and Shannon) for the murder of his wife Julia. Nick is in the dark, much as we are, as to why his wife was killed, and when he is offered the supernatural chance to go back in time, an hour at a time – we get to join Nick on his journey to discover his wife’s killer and his quest to save her life. With each hour that passes (backwards), the cobwebs clear a bit and we learn that Julia’s murder is mixed up in a complex plot involving an inside-job heist, a mysterious box that may hold the secrets to great wealth, corrupt members of the police force (plus one psychopathic killer cop), and a major plane crash that kills 200 people. Pretty interesting, right?
Well, yes and not quite. Like I’ve said, the concept is great, but I found that the execution is not so great. If you’ve been reading my reviews, I place a lot of value in how the author develops his characters. I felt that Mr Doetsch was so caught up in his complex plot and being clever that he never got to develop his characters beyond the cookie-cutter. And the funny thing is – Mr Doetsch has a tendency to jump the POV or the ‘voice’ in the novel from one character to the next – so we do get the chance to live inside the other characters’ heads, but I still felt that they weren’t well developed. Plus, I kept on getting confused when Mr Doetsch would jump POV, I mean, isn’t it Writing 101 that authors shouldn’t confuse their readers in that way?
I also have to say that (whine alert!) for much of the novel, I felt quite frustrated, much like the hero Nick. The novel is kinda slow-moving, with the action (and the revelations) not really picking up until much later in the book. Mr. Doetsch holds his cards VERY close to his chest, and we (and Nick) only get pieces of the puzzle piece-by-piece with each hour that passes. It’s a creative decision to do this, of course, and I respect that – I’m just saying that I was about ready to tear my hair out by the 5th or 6th hour. I was also getting exasperated with how Nick’s decisions kept on making things worse for the future (‘curses, failed again!‘) and his wife kept on dying anyway… there’s a part in the novel where Nick wonders if his wife was just meant to die on that day and yup, I was wondering the same thing myself! Now, time travel as a concept is a tricky thing – all that paradox that arise! (just think back to all the Terminator movies) – but I do think that Mr Doetsch’s novel works in the Sci-fi aspect. It must have been a bitch keeping to his timeline, but he does make an admirable job of it.
For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of The 13th Hour: A Thriller by other bloggers:
- Reading on a Rainy Day – “a roller-coaster ride into the last 12 hours of a couple”
- Alison’s Book Marks – “Well written, exciting, and very hard to put down!”
- Book Journey – “I love an unusual book and Richard Doetsch comes through in flying colors!”