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Carol, James - 'Watch Me'
Paperback: 400 pages (Aug. 2014) Publisher: Faber & Faber ISBN: 0571302769

WATCH ME is a 'Jefferson Winter' thriller, that follows on from the first book BROKEN DOLLS. In this book Jefferson (an ex-FBI profiler) decides to take up an assignment in a small town in Louisiana. His goal is to discover who poured gasoline over Sam Galloway, set light to it, and filmed the ensuing two minutes of agony the man endured before he died. Moreover, it looks as though this is only the first is a series of murders, as accompanying the video sent by Sheriff Fortier in his e-mail was a website link. On the screen a clock is counting down, next to an animation of the stick figure hangman, which is permanently built and dismembered over an over again with every passing second. The countdown seems to indicate that there is only a limited time before a second gruesome killing will take place. However, perhaps the main inducement for Jefferson in following up this particular assignment is the mode of transport to Dayton, to carry it out: a rather luxurious Gulfstream G550 private jet.

On that plane is the six foot six, black, young, investigator called Taylor, tasked with accompanying him to Dayton, and whom Jefferson specifically picks out as his co-investigator once he arrives and begins to try to find out what happened to Sam in earnest. More or less the first thing Jefferson does is to 'profile' Taylor, so the reader understands why he is the best man for this job. The second person that Jefferson uses (uses being the operative word here) to help with his investigation is the landlady of the B&B that he chooses to stay in (instead of the up-market hotel suite, specifically booked for him), who also happens to be Taylor's secret fiancÚ, called Hannah. He doesn't seem to have any particular liking for either Taylor or Hannah, but thinks they are the most useful people he can have to find out what happened to Sam.

Jefferson is a smart (as we keep being reminded) profiler, with little emotion, and with the dubious honour of having had a serial killer for a father (as we also keep being reminded), which apparently gives him an unusual insight into serial killers in general. However, when the website countdown ends in this particular story, a second murder does not appear to have taken place. Has Jefferson, and the Dayton police department been tricked? By whom and why?

Having liked the previous book, I was a bit disappointed by this one. Jefferson is just a bit too one-dimensional, and too full of himself to be likeable as the main investigating character. His rather narcissistic personality and the way in which he really does just use people to help him determine what happened for his own enjoyment (and the financial payoff) rather than any other reason is not that appealing. The plotting was reasonable, and there is the expected tense ending, but I think I prefer my heroes to be a bit more human.

Michelle Peckham, England
August 2014

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 31/08/2014 10:06