The Watchers

Marc Rochat spends his evenings in the tower of a cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland. He bears a heavy responsibility: "This is the last good place in a world of terrible sadness," his predecessor explains to him. "You must never fail to call the hour, you must always protect the bells and call the hour." And if he happens to engage the bells in conversation while he's guarding them, well, anyone can see he's a true innocent--a little slow, maybe (or maybe not), but sweet and harmless.

It won't take you long to figure out that Rochat has been groomed for his postion as le guet--"the watchman," loosely translated--but by whom, and for what purpose? Naturally, it has something to do with the other two people who are drawn to the cathedral: Katherine Taylor, a call girl on retainer to some of the world's wealthiest men, and Jay Harper, a British detective who--for some reason--can't remember much about his life before he showed up in Lausanne.

In this debut novel, Steele veers deep into Dan Brown territory by way of the apocryphal Book of Enoch, an ancient text describing a race of rebellious angels who consorted with human women, creating the half-breeds of the Nephilim. Steele plunges wholeheartedly into this mythology, infusing it with modern permutations--with Harper's hard-boiled skepticism a mirror for readers' own likely reluctance to suspend disbelief. Rochat is convinced Katherine is a "lost angel," and not just metaphorically. Steele teases his answers out slowly at first, but once he's got everything lined up the way he wants it, the final act is pure blockbuster. --Ron Hogan

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