“The Watchers” by Jon Steele: strong characters, original plot, visible magic.


In a market flooded with novels dealing with supernatural themes, “The Watchers” stands out for strength of its characters, the originality of the plot and Jon Steele’s remarkable ability to make magic visible in the familiar.

“The Watchers” is set in the part of Switzerland that I know very well. The locations Jon Steele describes: the ancient wooden steps of the Escaliers du Marché, the Lausanne Palace Hotel, the building that Marc Rochat lives in in Ouchy, the orange warning lights on Lac Leman and of course Lausanne Cathedral, are all places that I recognise. Jon Steele not only brings them to life, he evokes their inner magic, lighting them up in my imagination so that I see them afresh and know them for the first time.

The three main characters in this book strongly engaged my emotions: the American who sells her beauty for the use of rich men, who loves to watch herself in the mirror but cannot push aside the glamour she casts to see what she has become; the Brit detective who cannot sleep but is not yet truly awake; the Québécoise cripple with with a damaged mind, brilliant imagination and the heart of a lion. Each of them is imperfect. Each of them sees a different Lausanne. Each of them has a distinctive voice. Together they light up this book.

The plot and the world that it imagines, puts a twist on ancient legends that is original, plausible and intriguing. Jon Steele is brave enough to slow the pace of the storytelling so that comprehension dawns slowly but is all the more deeply felt for that.

In a story of good versus evil Jon Steele takes the time to show how blurred the boundaries are between the two, nor does he shy away from depicting the cruel violence that evil produces. He doesn’t glorify it but he doesn’t look away either. He uses it to cast the shadows that emphasises the light.

This is Jon’s Steele’s first novel.  As Marc Rochat might say, I am very sure it should not be his last.


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