Jon Steele was born in America and worked a cameraman for ITN for more than twenty years. He has travelled and worked through seventy-eight countries across six continents. He has been stationed in Jerusalem, covered the unrest in Georgia, Rwanda and Sarajevo and filmed a documentary in Iraq. His first book, War Junkie, was an autobiography of his life as a cameraman, and was first published in 2002. He now lives in Switzerland with ihs wife and two cats. "The Watchers" is his first novel and is largely set in Lausanne.
"The Watchers" has three lead characters who - on the surface of it, at least - have nothing whatsoever in common. However, the events of the book bring them together, with all Heaven and Hell threatening to break loose. Marc Rochat was born in Quebec, and spent the first ten years of his life there with his mother. He moved to Switzerland after she died of cancer, becoming an 'unofficial' member of his father's rich and very well-connected family. (His father was, unfortuunately, already married when he met Marc's mother). He's now 21 and works as the Guet (or night watchman) at Lausanne Cathedral - though, thanks to his father and grandmother, he's never exactly going to be stuck for cash. Unfortunately, Marc did have a difficult entry into the world - as a result, he has a crooked leg and a great deal goes over his head. An innocent sort, he sees the world a little differently : he worries about bad shadows, spends a little too much time amongst the dead and has conversations with the cathedral's bells. (He even appears to hear their replies).
Katherine Taylor, meanwhile, lives very close to the cathedral, and sees the light from Marc's lantern every night. A 26 year old American, Katherine funded her college education with a starring appearance in the UCLA issue of Playboy. (As a major in International Economics, she probably negotiated an excellent deal for herself). Katherine has now graduated to working as a high-class (and expensive) call girl and was doing very nicely in America - until she ran into a few difficulties with the IRS. Fortunately, she's found a very lucrative position with the 200 Club in Lausanne.
The third of the book's three lead characters is Jay Harper - a PI who's very fond of the History Channel. Seven weeks before we first meet him, he'd been contacted by Guardian Services Ltd about a very well-paid job for the IOC in Lausanne. Unfortunately, he rememers nothing about his life before answering answering that phone call. (At the time, he didn't even known his name, and wasn't aware that he was living in London. As the book goes on, it becomes clear there's more to his memory loss than the empty vodka bottles that were lying strewn around the room). Harper has been hired to deal with a man called Alexander Yuriev - a former Olympian who who has contacted the Head of the IOC about a possible drugs scandal. Unfortunately, he's proving a little difficult to pin down and the drug he had identified was anything but performance-enhancing.
Marc was my favourite character in the book, and I was glad to learn that Lausanne Cathedral does have a Guet in real life. (It's a position that dates back to medieval times, and they're the only city in Europe to keep the tradition alive). The Book of Enoch provides a nice, mildly spooky background to the book - with certain elements of it reminding me of old TV series Hex. It's an easily read book, with the early part of the book doing a good job of establishing the characters. While some of the twists and turns in the later part of the book didn't come as too much of a surprise, it's still an enjoyable read. There is a way open for a couple of sequels and - while "The Watchers" isn't exactly essential reading - I'd be keen to find out what happens next.