Friday, February 12, 2010

The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch

Good and bad, north and south, up and down, light and dark, bitter and sweet - whatever words conjur pictures of polar opposites, those are the words to describe this book.  The story is absolute genius - time travel, multiple realities, a murder mystery, intricate details.  Certainly one of the most original plots we've ever read.  But...and didn't you know there was gonna be a "but" is one of the worst jobs of writing and/or editing!

Nick Quinn's wife, Julia, is murdered by an unknown assailant in their home at 9:30 p.m.  Nick is arrested for the crime and evidence begins to pile up against him, even though we know that he isn't guilty.  Then Nick meets a stranger who gives him a gift - a watch that will allow him to travel back through time to prove his innocence and, hopefully, to save Julia. 

Where this becomes truly original is in the time travel.  No DeLorean's going eighty-eight miles per hour, no flux capacitor fluxing - just a watch that, as long as it remains in Nick's possession, carries him backwards two hours every time that it strikes the hour - at 10:00 he jumps back to 8:00 p.m. and relives the hour from 8-9, then at 9:00 he jumps back to 7 and relives the hour from 7-8.  Each jump gives him new information and a new chance to change the future.  But, as Nick discovers, each change causes a domino effect, the outcome of which can't always be predicted.

Now for the bad news. There are pacing issues. The excitement builds, we're flipping pages as fast as we can read, suddenly the protagonist reflect on his feelings for his wife, to recall events from the last chapter (which, by the way, we read!), to reiterate his anger at the killer.  A body is on the floor in a puddle of blood, the killer is dashing down the driveway to his waiting car - let's not stop now to rehash our hero's regrets over arguing with his wife or ponder how he will live without her - let's catch the guy! 

Mr. Doetsch also has a tendency to restate the obvious.  Run-on sentences containing multiple phrases with the same meaning and endless soliloquies covering events we already know cause the story to drag and the reader to become frustrated. However, they also made for some comical ad-libs and melo-dramatic over-acting on our part.  Oh, the pain!  The torture!!  The hand-to-brow swooning!!!  Woe, is us!

Despite the need for deeper editing, The 13th Hour is fun and intriguing.  It is the perfect "read together" choice because there are so many possibilities to discuss.  And speaking of reading together - this was our second entry in the Read Together Challenge we are hosting.  We rate this book 5 out of 5 for story, but only 2.5 for writing.  We recommend that you read it with someone who will share in the theatrics.


  1. Hummm I'm wondering how the story will seem "listening" to the audio (which I have) since the story was good but not the writing?

  2. I loved this book, read it in January in two days. I agree, I thought the story was genius, though I didn't find the writing terrible as you describe. It's funny how so many books rehash an often told story but this one was fresh and new and it ran backwards which i don't think you mentioned. I think the repeating of certain items was to keep the story straight in the reader's mind as the chapters moved in reverse, it certainly helped this old woman.

    Tina Ryan, Denver CO.