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Night Watch: An Em Ridge Mystery Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The third point needs amplification. Hall, the author, is a sailor and she has wisely chosen a milieu in which she's knowledgeable and comfortable. That could have gone off the rails, but she's careful to place all nautical references in a context that the reader can understand. No stoppers where the reader is taken out of the story while trying to decipher the meaning or importance of a nautical reference. Thank you, Ms. Hall, for letting us understand and enjoy the context; too many authors who write in their professional niche tend to show off.
The action starts immediately when Em Ridge lands her first job as a captain, and it instantly goes sour. Things get progressively worse as Em tries to cope with unfolding events and her own naiveté which leaves her open to mounting problems and suspicions. No spoiler: she staggers out alive at the end (this is the first in a series on her) but she narrowly escapes death on three occasions. Em is an endearing – and sometimes exasperating – heroine. She's too trusting, too easily charmed, and too slow to seek help when she needs it. These qualities push this novel into the genre of cozy mystery. If you expect that your lead character will have a few quirks and flaws, Linda Hall is an author you'll follow. The clarity of vision and decisiveness found in the heroes who populate mass market novels are, thankfully, absent. In fact, I started to worry about Em's ability to make sound decisions where men were concerned. At some level she senses that she may be making a mistake, but I felt that if she were left to her own devices she'd wind up teaming up with a villain. Fate rescues her from making such a mistake on two occasions.
The impression of her being a little too accepting stayed with me to the last page where, again, she's becoming involved with another man with an uncertain record. I belabor this to warn romance readers that this is no bodice ripper (one kiss), and it certainly doesn't fall into that genre (it must have a name) of the young/strong/beautiful/avenging female who is done hard by in the first chapter and spends the next 300 pages making men pay for it.
Coming back to the relevant point: Em is relatable; you'll worry about her (in)ability to determine who her friends and her foes are; and she doesn't seem to have learned much by the final page. I like that consistency as it makes her human and realistic.
I strongly recommend the book and I look forward to reading the second in the series.
Honestly, this was almost a five star read for me. The writing is marvellous. The setting is sublime. The character's love of the ocean is palpable and the mystery, while not hard to figure out, was engaging.
There were only a few things that kept it from being five star worthy for me and most hinge on simplicity, by which I mean simple plot devices. For example, the whole premise of the mystery is that a girl is murdered on a boat, while out to sea. There were only five people on that boat, including the dead girl. Despite this minuscule pool of suspects, Em is never included as one. Instead she's permitted unprecedented access to case information and even asked to assist the detective. What? Why?
Here's another one, Em needs information about her husband's death in order to put things together, then, without being asked or any communication between them a medical examiner decides to start looking at the 18 month old closed case again and sending her information. What? Why would he do that? It's too simple a solution to a plot necessity.
The big one, though, the one that literally made me set the book aside and play with my social media for an hour, because I didn't want to have to read any more of it, was Em's blind spot regarding a certain character's trustworthiness. She meets up with him for the first time in 10 years, having crewed with him only once before (so they have no relationship, not even a nod as you pass friendship) and because he's nice to her, she starts having 'growing feelings' for him within a day.
But everything about him is suspicious and Em sees that, but she still trusts him in the face of OBVIOUS clues to his ill-intent and tells him everything, even going so far as to pass items to him that people are killing over. And there is no feasible reason she should, none. Nothing in this particular part of the story is believable. Every-time she ran to him and confided everything to him, I asked why and wanted to give up on her. In the end I just had to accept the story needed her to trust him to progress, but that's not a good enough reason.
There were also a few times things stretched a bit thin. For example, at one point Em finds a clue saying, "The key is somewhere only Em will know." But when you find out where it is, Em doesn't know of it and she only learns of it by coincidence. Hmmm
The book also has a cliché, 'Now that I have you at my mercy, let me tell you everything, answer all your questions and then conveniently botch killing you.' ending that doesn't feel all together natural. Plus, she doesn't so much solve the mystery as stumble into the answer.
Despite these complaints (and some thin characterisation), the book is very good. I enjoyed the fact that Em (with the exception of her interactions with one man) is smart and self-assured. I loved the setting. I liked the non-development of a non-relationship that slipped in at the end, but you can still sense is 'something.' They felt very broken by real in the last few pages.
All-in-all, I had a few complaints, but am calling this a general success. I'll be keeping my eyes on Mrs. Hall's work for sure.
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