Edwin Hill burst onto the crime fiction landscape with his debut novel, Little Comfort, before returning a year later with another Hester Thursby mystery, The Missing Ones. It is clear that readers love Hester, so it is little surprise that Edwin Hill will soon release a third novel featuring this obstinate but loveable librarian. Like the previous two books, Watch Her breaks rules and forges a singular path that uniquely belongs to Edwin Hill.
Prescott University is owned and run by the Matson family. The Matsons are a wealthy family with more than enough secrets to fill every closet in their palatial mansion located in the heart of Boston’s Jamaica Pond neighborhood. Maxine works at the University, but her tendrils extend far deeper into the Matsons’ lives than anyone is aware of. At her request, Librarian Hester Thursby and Detective Angela White make an appearance at Pinebank – the Matson Family Estate – after a suspected break-in. The only trouble is, nothing was stolen; in fact, something was left behind. Hester and Angela discover a copy of George Eliot’s Adam Bede in the home and no one knows where it came from or why it would have been left behind.
Maxine gets Hester more tangled in the Matsons’ issues when she provides her with a mysterious list of students and requests that Hester investigate. Of course, Hester cannot resist the opportunity to use her research skills – unaware that she is about to stumble on a nest of secrets that extends into the past and affects the future of so many. Edwin Hill uses four narrative voices to explore his plot this time and much suspense is generated from their interactions with each other – who knows what and when. Throughout, the presence of long-buried secrets clashes with the exposure of current day troubles.
One of the strengths of Edwin Hill’s work is that he allows his stories to unspool realistically, never rushing plot elements at the expense of character development. This is especially important in Watch Her as the early section of this novel introduces a bevy of characters who will gain importance as the storyline progresses. Some of these are familiar to readers of the series – like Angela White and Morgan – but many of the others are making their first appearance and it is important that readers have some time to absorb their personal traits and their distinct relationships before the plot gains in complexity.
The for-profit educational system has had plenty of controversy in recent years. This timely element will keep readers invested throughout the investigation. Edwin Hill wisely pairs his series heroine, Hester Thursby, with a real law enforcement officer for much of this case. That eliminates any of those “stretching the bounds of credibility” moments so common with amateur sleuths. But this is not to say that Hester fails to hold her own. She remains a unique character in the crime fiction genre and shows that the iconic portrayals of academic librarians fail to address the array of personalities possessed by workers in that field. Certainly, across the course of this series, Edwin Hill has shown that he will populate his pages with characters who never adhere to any expected parameters and instead accurately reflect the world in all its myriad variety.
While Watch Her can be enjoyed as a stand-alone suspense novel, for those readers who have followed Hester Thursby on her journey, this novel will provide some true revelations. Hester’s relationship with Morgan is a loving one despite the complex dynamics at play. As any couple will tell you, even after years together it is possible to discover new things about your partner; however, Hester and Morgan truly have much to learn about the other and Watch Her provides the beginnings of that process.
Edwin Hill has been a shining light in the crime fiction community for a number of years now and while he has the devoted loyalty of his fans, these books deserve a wider readership and Watch Her seems the perfect book to break out and bring new readers to Hester Thursby’s side. Whether you start here and then read the others or choose to enjoy the books in chronological order, once you read Edwin Hill you will be a forever fan.
Disclaimer: A galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.