Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: Deathwatch by Robb White

I stumbled across this book purely by seeing its cover among a slew of other books, highlighted over at Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot, a great blog produced by reviewer Marty Mckee. Curious, I took a look at the Amazon entry and discovered there was a nicely-priced Kindle edition of the book. Two seconds later, and it was mine for the reading.

I read Deathwatch in a couple of hours on Friday evening. It is a fast, easy read, and author Robb White is very economical with his language, but at the same time, he is not a simple writer; the descriptions are evocative - in many scenes brutally so - and it is clear White has a strong understanding of the desert and the geology behind its formation. It is no coincidence that the main character is a studying Geology in college, and that knowledge comes in handy during the story.

I don't want to give much away, but the plot of Deathwatch revolves around an accidental shooting, with Ben, the main character, wanting to report the incident and Madec, the antagonist, wanting to leave it alone. Eventually Madec forces Ben to abandon all his supplies and clothes and banishes him out into the desert, to suffer death by exposure within the crosshairs of Madec's .358 bolt action hunting rifle, dozens of miles from any civilization or hope of assistance.

To get all gun-geeky for a moment, the author refers to Madec's rifle as a ".358 Magnum Mauser action on a Winchester 70 stock". The only cartridge of that type I could find was the .358 Norma Magnum. There is a .358 Winchester, but it is nowhere near as powerful (muzzle energy of ~4,200 for the Norma vs. ~2,900 for the best Winchester load), so the Norma is probably what the author is referring to, since in the Wikipedia entry, animals like bighorn sheep are the perfect game for the .358 Norma.

Gun talk aside, what happens from this point onward is pretty dramatic stuff. Ben has to use every scrap of desert knowledge at his disposal in order to survive in the brutal environment. Time and again Ben tries to find some resource to help his situation, but Madec, a highly intelligent and resourceful man himself, always seems one step ahead of his victim.  While the story falls into the "man hunting man" category of thrillers as far as I'm concerned, there is something of a twist; Madec is hoping to avoid a second murder, and trusts in the elements to do  his dirty work. It means Ben must fight against not just Madec, but the desert itself. It's not a battle he can afford to lose.

If you're looking for a short, easily digestible wilderness thriller, I recommend Deathwatch. I'm sure picking up a paperback copy is fine, but having this available on the Kindle at a not-outrageous price is a great deal. Death Wish, one of my favorites, is on Kindle for $10, way too much for a 40-year old thriller that probably clocks in at ~60K words, if that.


Anonymous said...

i'll have to check it out....maube someday the guys of TF22 might get a book review on here.....

Tim Mayer said...

I read it after seeing the MTV version, SAVAGES, with Andy Griffith, playing the bad guy. I recommend both book and film.

Anonymous said...

If you live this book you should check out The Hatchet series, And My side of the mountain.