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Dead Watch Hardcover – May 16, 2006

213 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Lincoln Bowe, a controversial Republican ex-senator, disappears at the start of this fast-paced thriller from bestseller Sandford (Broken Prey), the White House puts Jacob Winter, a veteran political operative with "an uncanny ability to navigate the world of bureaucracy," on the case. Bowe vanished shortly after making a fiery speech denouncing a rival, Arlo Goodman, the governor of Virginia and a demagogue who heads a volunteer militia group known as the Watchmen. When Bowe's burnt and headless corpse turns up, Winter is under even more pressure to discover those behind his murder. Aided by the dead man's attractive and possibly duplicitous widow, Madison, the fixer follows a trail of corpses and deception that suggests the killing may have been a staged piece of theater intended to derail Goodman's ascent to the presidency. Readers interested in a quick diverting romp without much gravitas will enjoy this, but serious Beltway fiction junkies might prefer their political thrillers to be a little more plausible. 500,000 announced first printing. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Former Virginia senator Lincoln Bowe is missing. His wife, Madison, believes his bitter political rival, Governor Arlo Goodman, is behind it. Critics scoff until she reveals a security tape showing two men loosely affiliated with Goodman threatening her in her home. Bowe's disappearance is a political time bomb. The presidential conventions are just over the horizon, and both parties fear the consequences if it detonates. The president, through his chief of staff, hires Jake Winter to investigate. Bowe's body is found soon after Winter initiates his investigation. Bowe was not a saint: his sexual dalliances, with both men and women, were numerous, and his obsession with destroying Goodman's political career may have driven him to contemplate political blackmail. Winter has plenty of suspects to choose from, and he knows the answer can be found somewhere in Washington's backrooms, where third-string campaign dirty tricksters change allegiances like other people change socks. Sandford, the best-selling author of the Prey series, displays an insider's knowledge of political infighting and couples it with his skill at creating memorable characters working through the maze of a diabolical plot. (Readers of a certain age will be reminded of Ross Thomas, grand master of the D.C. thriller from an earlier era.) The real Washington is awash with its own scandals and political time bombs, so expect readers to flock to this funhouse-mirror reflection of the real thing. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399153543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399153549
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Sandford was born John Camp on February 23, 1944, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended the public schools in Cedar Rapids, graduating from Washington High School in 1962. He then spent four years at the University of Iowa, graduating with a bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1966. In 1966, he married Susan Lee Jones of Cedar Rapids, a fellow student at the University of Iowa. He was in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, worked as a reporter for the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian from 1968-1970, and went back to the University of Iowa from 1970-1971, where he received a master's degree in journalism. He was a reporter for The Miami Herald from 1971-78, and then a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer-Press from 1978-1990; in 1980, he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and he won the Pulitzer in 1986 for a series of stories about a midwestern farm crisis. From 1990 to the present he has written thriller novels. He's also the author of two non-fiction books, one on plastic surgery and one on art. He is the principal financial backer of a major archaeological project in the Jordan Valley of Israel, with a website at In addition to archaeology, he is deeply interested in art (painting) and photography. He both hunts and fishes. He has two children, Roswell and Emily, and one grandson, Benjamin. His wife, Susan, died of metastasized breast cancer in May, 2007, and is greatly missed.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By David Warner on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a die-hard John Sandford fan (I read the entire Prey and Kidd series in about 4 months or so) I was disappointed that a new Kidd or Lucas novel was not out, but was very interested to see his construction of a political thriller. I bought it and finished it in a day, and it was, in a word, OK.

I think the thing that makes certain political thrillers work and others fail is character construction, and for me, there were far too many characters (and their motivations) to keep track of, and it's a fairly convoluted plot. I think the main character, Jake Winter, has a lot of potential, as too many characters that we see are law enforcement, in one form or another, but for him to be a "forensic bureaucrat", as he is called, is a unique approach for a protagonist and one that could open up a new avenue for Sandford.

All in all I give it 3 stars; it kept me interested, and was a quick and easy read, but at times was a bit hard to follow, like the conversation on a fast-paced episode of "The West Wing" where they reference people and events and places with which the listener is unfamiliar.

I, too, look forward to the return of Kidd or Lucas, but I would read another Jake Winter novel, and I suggest you give it a try. Sandford is a great writer, but this isn't his best showing.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Skip Senneka on September 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
With "Dead Watch", Sanford has delivered a political thriller that is fully worthy of mention alongside his popular police-procedural Prey series. I share the Booklist reviewer's sentiment that Sandford has produced a D.C. intrigue reminiscent of Ross Thomas (a VERY good thing!).

My biggest beef with Dead Watch is the bland characterization of Jake Winter (though Sandford does do a good job of making Winter not be Lucas Davenport); nearly every other character has more personality-pizzazz. Not to worry though, the Madison Bowe character and the breakneck speed of the story more than make up for that shortcoming. If I'd been turning pages any faster, I'd have probably started a fire.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on May 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I won't rehash the story line, as you can read that in the editorial reviews.

I'll preface by saying that I've long been a fan of Sandford's, especially his "Prey" series. His Lucas Davenport character does for the Twin Cities what Connelly's Harry Bosch does for LA; a brooding and introspective look at the dark underbelly of society.

In this book, Sandford takes on the political melieu of Washington with, at best, mixed results.

He tries to weave a tale of murder into one of political intrigue, and unfortunately fails to fully succeed at either.

There are many examples of success to which we can compare: probably one of the all-time classics is the 60s novel "Seven Days in May". Drury's works. Those of David Baldacci, such as "Absolute Power", a terrific novel and a pretty good Clint Eastwood movie.

It's hard for me to exactly pin down why this book doesn't succeed, but it doesn't. Some elements come to mind.

1. The presidential-level political aspects just didn't work; there was no sense of the immense power or potential menace of the office.

2. The lead character (Winter) struck me as a muddled and inconsistent mess. There's an implied backstory involving his ex-wife that seems purposeless, and isn't developed. His experience as a Special Forces soldier seems inconsistent with his capabilities, and simply thrown in to make the character a "tough guy".

3. The whole nature of the murder plot - and I won't expound more on the details so as not to create a spoiler - seemed incredible and was created more for sensationalism than anything else.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fullerton Looper on October 23, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Political suspense novels are a popular venue, but most authors try to avoid having to name political parties. In Dead Watch, John Sandford creates a fast-paced plot that names parties and shows both Republicans and Democrats to be flawed politicians. Members of both parties are generally shown to be more involved in trying to maintain power than in trying to uphold principles. But, while this novel does not have a liberal agenda, there are several occasions when the author's liberal bias emerges, primarily through the thoughts of the protagonist, Jake Winter.

The one embodiment of liberal bias that seems inappropriate is Mr. Winter bemoaning students at University of Wisconsin who might be reading books written by Newt Gingrich and Ayn Rand. I understand that many people do not appreciate or understand Newt Gingrich. I suppose it is also possible not to embrace the powerful arguments in defense of freedom found in the writings of Ayn Rand, but why is Mr. Sandford illustrating his bias this way? Most universities, including University of Wisconsin, are primarily liberal, and students who are adherents of Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Rand are definitely not in the majority.

While this novel might be a best seller and it might be a page turner, it is not literature. Mr. Sandford has as much use for a figure of speech as Al Gore has for an understatement. His descriptions of people and situations are uninspired, and there is very little dialogue that does not utilize four letter words.

The only examples of literary creativity that I uncovered were one anagram and one semi-clever piece of wordplay. The anagram shows that Mr.
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