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They're Watching    by Gregg Hurwitz order for
They're Watching
by Gregg Hurwitz
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In addition to his excellent series starring U.S. Marshall Tim Rackley, Gregg Hurwitz has written several standalone thrillers, including last year's Trust No One. Though the equally paranoid title of his intricate new thriller, They're Watching, sounds like it could be a continuation, this one also stands firmly on its own.

It opens on a young man, whose once promising life has gone seriously downhill. Having wanted to make movies since he was a kid, Patrick Davis was thrilled when he sold his screenplay. He'd already married his college sweetheart, Ariana, and taught high-school English for ten years. Life seemed perfect until they started to make a movie from his script for They're Watching, 'about an investment banker whose life comes apart after he improbably switches laptops on the subway during a blackout.' After the movie's lead, Keith Conner, lost his footing and banged his jaw during an argument about script changes, Conner claimed that Patrick hit him. A huge lawsuit followed, but there was worse. Conner gave Ariana the impression that Patrick was having an affair, leading her to rebound in a one-time fling with their neighbor.

But no matter how bad all this seems, Patrick and Ariana's lives are about to disintegrate even further. He receives DVDs that show (before the contents self destruct) that they're being closely watched. Though instructed to stay away from the police, Patrick consults local detectives, but then receives evidence that his watchers have ties to authorities, and might be some sort of Special Ops. He feels menaced but the motivation eludes him. The watchers give specific, detailed instructions that lead him to perform what seem to be highly charitable acts. They make him feel he's in Pay It Forward - but why? He's terrified for Ariana, their renewed relationship being the only good outcome.

Patrick decides to stop playing, but is told his next task is a matter of life and death and that someone he knows is involved. Should he go? Ariana says not and she is right, but Patrick succumbs to curiosity. What ensues makes clear to him that he's been the victim of a very clever plot. It also leaves him in deep trouble with the law and in a race against time to extricate himself before he's jailed permanently. He and Ariana marshall their scant resources and work together to get to the bottom of the arcane situation they find themselves in. And finally realizing he's playing in the big leagues, Patrick seeks help from the enemy of his enemy.

As always with Gregg Hurwitz, They're Watching is a gripping thrill ride, filled with surprises you don't see coming. But I also enjoy the moments of life wisdom he inserts in his stories, as in Patrick's realization: 'I think about all the things I used to chase for all the wrong reasons. And how by standing still I now hummed with a vitality I'd never known.' Don't miss one of the best mystery reads of the year - They're Watching!

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