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Review: The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch


TitleThe 13th Hour
Author: Richard Doetsch
Genre: Thriller, Time travel
First Published: December 2009
Publisher: Atria
Source: Library
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352 pages

   

On the flap
Nick Quinn is being held in jail, accused of the murder of his beloved wife, Julia. He knows she's dead; he saw her bloody corpse, shot in the head at point-blank range. The police tell him they found the murder weapon with his fingerprints on it in the trunk of his car. Nick is confused, grief-stricken -- and completely innocent.

At 9 p.m. on July 28, a gray-haired gentleman visits Nick in the police interrogation room and asks him a simple question: "If you could get out of here, if you could save her, would you?" He hands Nick a golden talisman that allows Nick to go back in time, one hour at a time, for a total of twelve hours. With each hour that Nick travels back, he finds more clues to the identity of Julia's real killer, but he also discovers that his actions in the past may have unexpected repercussions in the future.

In his race against time to save the woman he loves most in the world, Nick will find that friends become enemies, old loyalties are tested, and Julia's murder is part of a larger scheme that has its roots in greed and vengeance. Nick has the ability to save Julia, the chance to put his own world in balance, but he is venturing down a precarious route. If he hasn't set things right by the thirteenth hour, his desperate attempts to save Julia's life may lead to a far greater catastrophe than he could have ever imagined.

Very thrilling - that's as succinct as I can say! I was glued to this book for a day and finished it quite fast.

My opinion
The 13th Hour starts with Nick and Julia having a minor disagreement, before Julia sets off to work and Nick spends his day working from home. At almost 7 pm, Julia is murdered and Nick distraught. In the background of this story, a plane has crashed causing the death of all 212 passengers. With all the police at the crash site aiding with relief efforts, only 2 are spared for Julia's murder investigation. Nick is however, soon hauled into prison, with a murder charge hanging over his head, and the police's claim of finding his prints on a gun he had never seen, much less touched before, is threatening to keep him holed up in prison for long. At that point, walks in a European gentleman with a watch and a letter with certain instructions. What follows next is 12 hours of going back in time, learning what really happened, watching his wife die over and over again, bringing about the death of his best friend, Marcus, at one point, as he races against time to change the one thing to save them all.

The 13th Hour was a roller-coaster ride into the last 12 hours of a couple, as Nick tried desperately to save Julia from the clutches of death. It was very suspenseful and had all the delightful elements of a thriller - a bunch of baddies, multiple murders, crime lords, diamonds, wealthy tycoons and innocent protagonists. Each time the clock goes back into the previous hour, Nick learns something new as the magnitude of the entire crime slowly unravels.

All through the book, there is the message of the importance of one's actions echoed very strongly.

One simple selfish act can reverberate through time, through life, robbing a stranger of existence.  A loved one could meet her death from the repercussions of a moment or an event she may never know or understand.  Yet if this one moment didn't occur, if it could be found, could be taken back, the lives it touched could be changed, could be altered, and that one life saved.

How true that is, and how often we sit back and wish we could undo a lot of our actions. How fitting that when we invented computers, we gave it the now ubiquitous Undo-Redo function. Ctrl-Z has become one of my most pressed buttons on this keyboard. Each hour that Nick gains back, he strives to change things, save Julia. But it's interesting seeing how his different actions during each hour change the events that happen, sometimes bringing about Julia's death earlier than 7 pm. Sometimes, I wished I could see how his different actions changed the future timeline, but since Nick only goes backward, the reader doesn't get to see that. It annoyed me though that Nick wasn't learning from his experience. He kept making the same mistake of trying to change the present, knowing that he is still going to go into the past, and that what he does now will not matter in that new timeline.

I still gave the book only 4 stars because it could have done with some better editing work. While Richard Doetsch's writing is definitely good and something I enjoyed, some portions of the book had needless repetitions and were stating the obvious. Also, the lengthy description of the couple - Nick and Julia, wore me out. There were too many sentences testifying to the fictional fact that the two were a perfect couple, who always loved each other and met under a high-school romantic situation, and always supported each other. The stereotypical perfect American couple. Phew! The wordy descriptions alone made me not like the couple at all. In addition, the first time Nick sees Julia in the past, he gets so overcome with emotions that they have sex. Excuse me? Time is running out, answers are to be found, the killer is coming any time and sex is the first thing on your mind?

Overall though, I found the suspense quotient of this book really high, with its many twists and turns. It was also interesting to read the go-backwards formula work well in this case, (as opposed to the go-forwards formula of most suspense novels).

Title Demystified
This book starts at Chapter 12. It ends at Chapter 13. In between, there are 11 chapters, from Chapter 11 all the way down to Chapter 1. As said in the synopsis, this book is told in reverse. Technically, Nick is the only person going to the past. He is the only constant (LOST vocab!) in all the hours. It is interesting that this book has the title The 13th Hour, since all things of importance happen in the last hour - the 12th hour - Nick's 12th hour in the past. Or is it his 13th hour, since he lives 9pm-10 pm once, and only then starts going to the past. (Was that confusing?)

Cover Art Demystified
Nick is able to go into the past, by one hour each time, only because he was given a pocket watch by the European gentleman. A time-turner, to those familiar with the world of Hogwarts except that he doesn't have to wind it. It pretty much works automatically. (Spoiler alert) The only nagging point I had was when Nick finally returns the timepiece to the owner, who ends up with two of them - the one he had originally in the new timeline, and the one he had given to Nick in the timeline Nick erased. If that's the case, shouldn't there be a lot of such pocket watches in the world, since it had been used a lot of times in the past. That was never explained. And it annoyed me!

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

Comments

This sounds like it could be a movie! I'm sure it was a great read, though. I can see myself not putting it down for hours!

Emidy
Une Parole
Ann Elle Altman said…
Your previous commenter is right, it could be a great movie. I think I will read the book though, love time travel and thrillers.

ann
WonderBunny said…
Good review! I already this one sitting on my wish list. :)
I did not read the spoiler part as I have the audio on my IPOD. Looking forward to it. Thanks Aths.
Marce said…
Great review. I love your explanation of the 12th/13th hour. I am going to read on Kindle.
I did read this one and thought it was quite good and fun to read. Your points about their perfect love is right on but it didn't bother me too much. I saw a movie play out while reading it. I'm sure it's in the works.
Overall, i recommend it to others. :)
Lina Shaik said…
Interesting review. Will be adding this to my wish list!
bermudaonion said…
The suspense sounds great and what a unique way to do the chapters! Too bad the editing wasn't better. Great review!
Introverted Jen said…
Great review! I'm pretty sure this was already on my list, but I'm glad to know that you mostly liked it!
Athira said…
Emidy, Ann, It definitely sounds like it can be a thrilling movie, I would love them to make a movie of this!

Ruthann, I would love to know how you find this one, should you decide to read it!

Diane, Marce, so excited to hear what you think!

Michelle, good that the perfect couple thingy didn't bother you! And yep, I hope a movie is made based on this one!

Lina, Hope you like it!

Kathy, I agree, the editing could have been done better!

Jennifer, I hope you will like it too!
Tales of Whimsy said…
Fantastic description. Sounds compelling :)
Athira said…
Juju, it definitely is! :)
Unknown said…
(SPOILER ALERT)i think i may have a possible solution to the double watches. when nick goes back in time to his last hour, he is supposed to automatically be sent forward in time to the 13th hour, but mr dreyfus took the watch and put it in his pocket. since he did not have the watch he was not able to go forward in time, instead was forced to "relive" the 12 hours over again a THIRD time only this time he was in the hospital. however, the only problem with this logic is that the watch should have "leaped" forward with or without him. just my idea
Athira said…
shlatekkin, Oooh.. that definitely makes a lot of sense!! It is possible that the clock didn't jump forward because it was disconnected from its original user! Nice theory! That is definitely plausible!

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