“Quirky characters complement the suspenseful plot. Readers will agree that a failing school makes a grade-A mystery.”
“Complex characterization and a masterly mystery make Watch Her a superior read.”
Hester Thursby, a Harvard librarian and amateur sleuth, makes her third appearance in Agatha Award nominee Edwin Hill’s mystery, Watch Her (Kensington). Dedicated to her job, Hester has commitment issues. For years, she’s lived with her “non-husband,” Morgan Maguire the local veterinarian, and refuses to marry him or discuss her past with him. She views Morgan’s five-year-old niece Kate as her own child, but that’s as close to establishing a family as Hester will get. She even keeps an apartment on the side as an escape hatch.
When Maxine Pawlikowski, the director of admissions of Boston’s prestigious non-profit Preston University, asks Hester to investigate a list of student alumni, Hester soon discovers that some of the students do not exist. But, as Hester suspects, there’s more to the situation than a potential tuition scam. The art college, which is owned by the predatory Matson family, is the facade for a family hiding secrets, and a mystery that dates back three decades.
This mystery, surrounding the drowning death of a toddler, Rachel Matson, is a subject that no one will discuss. When Hester pokes around and asks questions, everyone seems sworn to secrecy. Neither Jennifer Matson, the child’s boozy mother, Tucker Matson, the child’s father and Preston’s chair of the Board, Vanessa Matson, the school’s new president and the Rachel’s older sister, Maxine, the family confident, nor her brother Stan, a cop who investigated the drowning, will discuss the child’s death. For Hester, the big questions are: What is everyone covering up, and how is Rachel’s death woven into the case of the missing students?
After a Preston student on Hester’s list is found murdered, Hester becomes embroiled in a mystery that runs even deeper than the shady student discrepancies or Rachel’s death. Each Matson is the bearer of additional secrets, which the cunning son-in-law, Gavin Dean, Preston’s CFO, has discovered and is threatening to expose. Gavin’s problem is that he, too, has committed sins. With a clan as powerful and wealthy as the Matson’s, there’s no limit to what money can buy. Even silence.
Hester, while never shying away from investigating others, has difficulty examining her own life and sharing it with others, especially her friends and family. She allows the traumas of her childhood to prevent her present and future happiness. Through the arc of the novel, Hester learns that families come in all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations and colors, and that life offers only one opportunity to make your own happiness — she simply has to trust and follow her heart.
Watch Her is also a tragic tale of mothers and daughters, the damage they can unknowingly cause each other, and the lengths they’ll go to protect of one another — even when related not by blood, but by the heart, and even if the protectiveness leads to murder. It is also a story of forgiveness.
The diverse supporting characters, including a gay female detective, a graffiti artist, an art student and many dogs, compliment the staid and uptight Hester as her hot-shot research skills uncover blackmail, extra-marital affairs and unwanted pregnancies. Watch Her is a complex family saga, one that keeps readers pondering long after the last drop of blood has been spilled.