THE WATCHER - Bella Jewel
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-1-250-10838-8
June 2017
Romantic Suspense

Western United States - Present Day

Seven years ago, Marlie Jacobson was kidnapped by a brutal serial killer and barely escaped with her life when she killed the man. While still recovering from her injuries, her mother signed a book contract against Marlie's wishes, and her story went on to become a mega bestseller. Meanwhile, Marlie refuses to touch the proceeds from the book sales and tries to live an anonymous life in Colorado Springs . . . until one day her younger sister ends up missing. Marlie fears the past horror she experienced has risen from the ashes.

On the advice of her sister's best friend, Hannah, Marlie agrees to hire the best private investigator in the business, Kenai Michelson. But Marlie has a stipulation of her own: she must accompany Kenai on the search. He isn't happy about it, because he's a lone wolf and thinks she would only hinder his search, but he finally agrees. They set off on a harrowing adventure to find Marlie's sister, one that involves dead ends and being shot at. All the while, Marlie feels that somehow her sister's disappearance has something to do with her own terrifying encounter with a serial killer. But with Kenai by her side, they continue the search, and the two soon grow closer.

THE WATCHER is not for the faint of heart if you don't like gory details. The book opens with a snippet of Marlie fighting with the serial killer from her past. She killed the man to stop him from scalping her and cutting off her fingers and toes. One can only imagine the horror she went through. Then, to have her own mother use her to sensationalize it in a tell-all book was the ultimate topper. One person who has been supportive of Marlie is her sister. When she ends up missing, Marlie is beside herself, and it's Hannah who provides some clues for them to start the search. Marlie will stop at nothing to find her sister.

Kenai prefers investigating these tough cases on his own and thinks Marlie is using her sister's disappearance to take advantage of her past fame as the victim of a serial killer. It doesn't take long before he realizes that Marlie is also a victim of her mother's insensitivity and greed. She continues to have nightmares, and it's Kenai who comforts her. He soon reveals that he has his own horrific past, as his little sister was killed years ago by a serial killer. Marlie and Kenai bond and become lovers. Through it all, Kenai and Marlie are a team, and they're on a mission to find her sister.

There are lots of twists and turns in THE WATCHER, with so many red herrings put out that even I never figured out who was behind Marlie's sister's disappearance until it was right in my face. Bella Jewel knows how to write intense, suspenseful drama that will have you trying to figure out whodunit as clues are dropped. However, there are a couple of scenes where I wanted to knock some sense into Marlie's head, like going outside in the dark to check out an unknown sound without telling Kenai. Of course it turned out not so good for her. Except for these idiotic moments, THE WATCHER is a great read.

If you like to read suspenseful tales that have you gripping the edge of your seat, then you won't go wrong with THE WATCHER.

Patti Fischer