“Night Watch” draws the reader into the action from the start, bonding them to the storyline with cliffhanger chapter endings, and keeping them on tenterhooks till the very end. The author uses her specialist knowledge of sailing to good effect, adding a sense of excitement, but is never at risk of alienating less well-informed readers.
The central character, Em Ridge, in her thirties, is recently widowed after a tragic boating accident. A newly qualified captain, she sets off from Canada to the Caribbean, in charge of her first commercial delivery of a luxury sailing ship. Not long after they depart, a crew member disappears – an incident that threatens to scupper Em’s career and reputation. Soon a bizarre connection emerges between this death and Em’s late husband’s, and the mystery becomes ever more complex, with Em’s life increasingly endangered.
Key themes include the nature of friendships and families – how well we really know each other and the difference between friends and families. Estranged from her own family, Em has formed close friendships with her neighbours who support her at times of crisis. The class distinctions and the ethics of the sailing community are explored, as is the meaning of true wealth. Also under consideration are the social mores of those who, like Em, choose to tread their own unconventional path.
The characters are engaging and well drawn. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Em’s neighbours and of Ben, the new police officer who has moved to the area after a personal tragedy. Their relationships, dialogue and actions were believable and consistent, and I was rooting for Em right from the start.
The plot flowed well, but a number of minor typos drew me up occasionally—however, the author assures me that these have since been attended to. The style was natural and easy, and the only writing tic that I spotted was the habit of using “um” or “uh” or “ah” to make a speech sound hesitant. This made them sound phony; the speeches would have been just as effective without.
This was a gripping and satisfying read that would appeal to readers who are interested in leisure sailing, those who like cosy mysteries, and those keen on stories set on the eastern seaboard of Canada.
The ending was satisyfing and tidy, though my head reeled from so many twists and turns, none of which I’d predicted. Em’s personal growth, as she gains confidence in who she is and what she stands for, was rewarding for the reader. As we part company with her, she is set to move on beyond her bereavement, to advances in her career, and possibly to a new, cautious and gentle relationship with Ben.
The neat conclusion leaves a good set-up for a sequel. It’s always pleasing to discover an enjoyable new series, and I’d be keen to read what Em gets up to next.
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