The first half of the book is set in Vietnam, as the protaganist goes from an innocent young man to one haunted and corrupted by the violence he lives with every moment. It is a chilling picture of how one's thinking can become twisted, and how difficult it can be to right yourself.
After the war, Allen is truly a "basket case" and lives on the street. A series of events begin to change his perspective, and he becomes a civilian mercenary, rescuing abused children, often by kidnapping them. At a point in his life at which he is finally at peace, and ready to retire to an island with the woman he loves, a final case is presented. He completes the job, but is haunted by the boy involved, and when the boy is threatened, Allen steps in.
Bantam, March 2003, 23.95, 385 pp.
He was in his first year of college when the patriotic spirit moved Allen Carmichael to enlist in the army, knowing that he would send time in Viet Nam. While serving in Nam, he saw and did things to people that made him doubt his own humanity. When he left service Allen suffered flashbacks leading to staying alone and homeless for fear what he would to anyone who got close to him. After seven years, he finally gets his act together.
For the next twenty-six years he has rescued (or kidnapped, depending on your point of view) children in abusive situations. Allen is proud of the fact that fifty-two children are alive because of his intervention but now he plans to retire and make a life with his lover Rae. He's asked to go out on one more assignment and he reluctantly agrees to snatch Jamie O'Connell, from his sadistic father. This is his last case but it turns out to be very dangerous because nobody knew that Jamie's father takes his violence out on anybody who gets in his way.
The hero saw and committed a lot of atrocities during the Viet Nam war and has spent the rest of his life seeking redemption. To achieve this impossible salvation, Allen saves children even if it means stepping outside the law to accomplish his deed. KEEPING WATCH is a masterpiece of psychological suspense wrapped inside a taut action thriller.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner