Sunday, January 24, 2016

"The Watcher in the Wall" by Owen Laukkanen is a more personal entry in the Stevens & Windermere series

This book -- which comes out in March 2016 -- is the 5th book in the Stevens and Windermere series.  Although the story stands alone with some brief references to the case from the previous book in the series, I wouldn't recommend reading it without reading at least the first book in the series.  And really I think you should read at least the first couple books because you need to get the history of these characters and why they are working together and what the relationships are among the major characters.  You would still have a really interesting book to read but would lose a lot of the background.

"Watcher" starts out on a very different note from the stories earlier books in the series which all begin with a violent crime that has a Minnesota connection and in which the FBI gets involved.  This story starts out more quiet and sad -- with a bullied teen committing suicide.  Stevens gets involved because the teen was his daughter's classmate and Windermere has her own personal connection and it hits her hard.  For the first 100 pages, it looked like this book was going to be a dramatic change from the past books where the duo criss-crosses the United States hunting down the bad guys with some dramatic action scenes.  But never fear --  even though the beginning of the book is heavy on the touchy feely and on computer research, it doesn't stay passive for long.

If you are a fan of the series.for the action, don't be put off by what seems to be a departure from the usual formula.  You will get all the action you expect as the investigation reveals that there is more to this case than depressed and suicidal high school students.  I am not going to give away any spoilers, but will let you know that the action heats up in a big way.

But even when the action heats up, the personal aspect to the book stays with you.  One of the hardest parts of the book, both for one of the characters and also for me as a reader, is the description of how so many students laugh along with the bullies, not because they want to be mean to the target but to fit in themselves or out of a desire to not become a target of the bully themselves.  I have been out of high school for a very long time but one of my classmates recently shared on Facebook how much her bullying in high school negatively affected her life.  And I feel ashamed that I was too wrapped up with my own desire to fit in and be liked to notice what she was going through.

In the acknowledgements at the end, the author talks about his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and encourages bullied or suicidal teens to talk to someone.  He even offers up himself.  I hope someone who needs it takes him up on the offer.

For the rest of us, enjoy another exciting Stevens & Windermere thriller!