Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Because I'm Watching

FDR said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which is profound and good advice, but in my case totally impossible. I mean he’s totally overlooked spiders, snakes, heights, roller coasters, public speaking, and things that go bump in the night. Yeah, I’m pretty lily-livered if I do say so myself. All joking aside, I don’t mind a good scare when it comes in book form and from the comfort of my own couch and Christina Dodd’s, Because I’m Watching, had the potential of delivering in spades. What could be scarier than your own fear used as a weapon against you in a psychological warfare where the enemy seems to be inside your own mind?

From the publisher: "The survivor of a college dorm massacre, a woman accused of her lover's murder, Madeline Hewitson is haunted by ghosts and tormented by a killer only she can see. At night, she works, writing and drawing the monster that slithers through her imagination, and living in fear of those moments when the doors of her mind unhinge and her nightmare lives in the daylight. A seasoned military veteran, Jacob Denisov lives alone in his small, darkened home, sleepless, starving, and angry. Every day he lives with the guilt that comes from his own failures and the carnage that followed. When neighbor Madeline Hewitson drives her car through the front wall of his house, she breaks his house--and his life--wide open. Forced to view the world outside, Jacob watches Maddie, recognizes a kindred spirit and wonders what she fears more than herself. Has someone caught her in a twisted labyrinth of revenge and compassion, guilt and redemption, murder and madness?"

I might have tipped you off as to my lukewarm feelings on the book when I used the dreaded word “potential” in my first paragraph. Because I’m Watching was a good book; not great, but by no means a total waste of time. I found it to be a great idea poorly executed, though I’ll concede that the problem might lie with me, or namely my preferences as a reader. The problem, as I see it, is that as a romantic suspense novel it tried to successfully deliver on both genres (romance and suspense), and ended up holding true to the saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ It was neither sweetly, sweepingly, movingly romantic nor thrillingly, frighteningly, suspenseful.

Given the frightening premise of the tale, Dodd could have done so much to ratchet up the tension if she'd helped readers to better grasp Maddie’s escalating sense of horror. Instead of telling us of Maddie’s fear, put us in the room with her and make us feel it; make our heart pound a little faster, make us cringe and shiver right along with her. Why not add a little suspense and make us truly doubt whether she's just batshit crazy? As for the identity of the villain, way too predictable; Nate the Great could've solved this case.

Because I’m Watching was a pleasant read that could’ve amped up its spook factor for a more spine-tingling, tense read; if you like that type of thing, which I do (in books only).