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Death Watch [Paperback]

By Jack Cavanaugh (Author)
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Item Number 25402  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.5" Height: 1"
Weight:   0.66 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 30, 2005
Publisher   Zondervan Publishing
ISBN  0310215765  
EAN  9780310215769  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In a world rocked by 9/11, novice Los Angeles television reporter Sydney St. James is teamed with veteran international news anchor Hunz Vonner when people randomly begin receiving notices informing them that they have forty-eight hours to live. With chilling precision, every one who receives an official death watch notice dies at the tick of the clock at the forty-eighth hour. From an unlikely source, as time is running out, Sydney and Hunz are presented with a bizarre scenario, and they suddenly find themselves facing the ultimate terrorist.

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More About Jack Cavanaugh

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jack Cavanaugh is a popular historical fiction author. He has fifteen published novels which have received numerous Christian and secular awards. His novels "While Mortals Sleep" and "His Watchful Eye" won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction. "The Puritans", from the American Portrait series, won an ECPA Silver Medallion Award.

Jack Cavanaugh currently resides in the state of California. Jack Cavanaugh was born in 1952 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Jack Cavanaugh has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Great Awakenings
  2. Kingdom Wars

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
God as a divine escape hatch  Nov 17, 2007
This book was great about 90% of the time. Cavanaugh and Kuiper really know how to craft a story. Sydney St James, a Los Angeles TV news reporter, stumbles on what is, quite possibly, the biggest news story ever. While covering what seems to be a fatal car crash, she finds that the driver had received a "Death Watch" notice: "You have been selected for death. Precisely forty-eight hours from the time of this transmission you will die. This is an official death watch notice."

As it turns out, six other deaths (with accompanying notices) occurred that day in Los Angeles. And before the end of the day, St. James finds out that thousands of the notices have been sent all around the world. As the evidence begins coming in, two things become clear: (1) the mortality rate is 100% and (2) St James is quickly losing her objectivity as a news reporter, getting wrapped up in the lives of some of the recipients. The latter is completely understandable, but does become more prominent as the story progresses. Were her involvement with -- people who were a day ago -- total strangers not enough, the authors ratchet up the tension when people close to St James receive notices, too.

Like I said, 90% of this book is great. But that other 10% . . .

Early in the book, there is a gaping hole in continuity. One of the notices turns out to be a hoax. Even though details of the notices were only made public hours before this scene takes place, the perpetrator of the hoax knew 48 hours earlier the exact wording of the notices, so that he could duplicate it precisely. I'm really surprised that neither of the authors, nor the editor, caught this issue. It doesn't help any, either, that this scene does nothing to advance the story.

Unfortunately, that is the greatly smaller problem with Death Watch.

* * * SPOILER ALERT * * *

After over 200 pages of story, St James is told the reasoning behind the deaths and something of a solution. Both are of a completely supernatural nature. While the reasoning behind the deaths is certainly of a plausible nature to a Christian, the authors gave almost no indication as the book progressed that this is where they were heading. In comparison/contrast, most of Frank Peretti's books are full of supernatural elements, but he makes it clear that this is where he's coming from and where he's headed.

I have often said that I largely only like science fiction that pre-dates me. This is because sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, authors starting blurring the lines between science fiction and fantasy. Suddenly, if a scifi author wrote himself into a corner, he could simply introduce a supernatural element (which does not belong in science fiction) -- and voila -- problem solved. Sadly, most of those authors didn't actually write themselves into a corner, but simply planned this "easy way out" from the start. It seems very likely that Cavanaugh and Kuiper did this, too.

The solution is little more than "let go and let God". While the concept is grounded in Scripture, the implementation makes a mockery of the very faith that the authors are trying to advance. It is improper to look upon salvation as merely "fire insurance" -- something to allow one to avoid eternal spiritual death. Cavanaugh and Kuiper kick it up (down?) a notch by reducing it to something to allow one to avoid physical death.

This concept may have been acceptable had the authors explored the idea of whether it worked or not, depending on if the victim actually meant it or was just using God as a divine escape hatch. Needless to say, this idea was not pursued. Once the "secret" is discovered and is tested successfully, all that remains of the book is tying up a few loose ends and the promise of St James and some of the other protagonists spreading the word.


When St James and another protagonist first try to convey the "secret" to the notices (and how to defeat them) on an international newscast, they are cut off, with anchors profusely apologizing for the proselytizing. I find it interesting (and a bit sad) that Cavanaugh and Kuiper didn't see that they were presenting the Gospel in just as lame a way as their characters. Or maybe they did, and didn't care.

Either way, reaction of unbelievers to this book will be disappointment at the authors having taken the easy way out, and probably further distancing of themselves from anything having to do with Christianity. One this site reviewer referred to the ending as "propagandarous" and "preachy". And to be honest, even as a Christian, I have to agree with him.

As a believer, had the vital part of the story been better presented, my reaction may have been a renewed sense of urgency is spreading the Gospel, as time is running out. This book did place my focus on time, but not of that nature. Rather, I really want those hours back that I spent reading this book when I could have been doing something productive, like watching M*A*S*H re-runs.
Great Novel Until the Weak Ending  Aug 2, 2006
I really enjoyed Death Watch until the final chapters where the quality just dropped off, the authors got lazy and gave us a weak ending and unimaginative cause for the Death Watch notices. The book was up there with other supernatural mystery novels such as The Stand and The Cell by Stephen King, I was hooked and couldn't put it down but the weak and unfortunately propagandarous preachy ending disappointingly lets this great story and its readers down.

In Death Watch, Sydney St James is looking to be assigned a story with a bit more substance than the usual light hearted features she has been assigned in her short journalistic career. Unfortunately for her, her arch rival takes what she thought would be her big break away from her and Sydney is sent to report on the car crash on the freeway outside the station's building. After seeing a note in one of the vehicles and using her looks to her advantage with a traffic cop, Sydney discovers what turns out to be the biggest story of mankind, that a series of victims have all received notes telling them the exact time they will die and died precisely as the notes outlined. Teamed up with EuroNet superstar Hunz Vonner who sees her as an unprofessional emotional hindrance, Sydney sets out to find the source of the Death Watch notes. A pregnant Wonder Wheel contestant, homeless man who talks to angels and many other characters all put her career and future in jeopardy as many including Hunz, question if she has what it takes to be an unbiased journalist who doesn't get attached to the subjects and gets the story at all costs.
This will make you think!  Nov 26, 2005
When TV reporter Sydney St. James is sent to cover a fatal traffic accident, she is totally unprepared for the drama and mystery she is about to discover. For on the front seat in the car of the victim is a slip of paper that reads: "You have been selected for death. Stop. Precisely forty-eight hours from the receipt of this transmission you will die. Stop."

Thus unfolds the sequence of bizarre events as more and more "Death Watch" notices turn up. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the selected victims, no connection, no common denomination. What is this all about? Who is doing this, and why?

After she manages to convince the TV studio powers that be that there is a story in this, Sydney is unwillingly teamed up with Hunz Vonner, a visiting TV anchor from Europe, to investigate. A number of those that have reported receiving a death threat are asked if they would be willing to appear on television as their 'promised' time of death approached. This macabre "interview" is turned down by several until finally a man agrees. Sydney, Hunz and the TV crew arrive and set up, prepared to watch the last supposed minutes of the man's life. Maybe they'll catch whoever it is that is sending these horrible threats. Or they might discover something quite normal to cause death. Yet this man is healthy. No medical history of anything life-threatening. There has to be something they can discover. Or maybe it is all a horrible prank. A hoax.

But nothing can halt the dying. As reports come in all across the country and around the world, every recipient of the Death Watch notice dies at the appointed time. Everyone.

As terror mounts, Sydney and Hunz follow trails all across the United States. Suddenly, it becomes personal. People close to Sydney are receiving the notices. Desperate, their quest culminates in Chicago, where the trail of a mysterious, unseen person reveals an astonishing secret. On the roof of the Hilton Hotel, Sydney gets the first hint of the answer, a revelation that could cost her the life of those she loves, ruin her career, or quite possibly save them all. She did something she hadn't done in a very long time. She prayed.

When this book came to the top of my TBR stack I had no inkling of the heart-stopping intensity I was about to experience. It grabbed me from the first page and held on tight to the last. Yes, this is "something different" and I guarantee you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough. Well done MM Cavanaugh and Kuiper.

Peggy Phifer ©2005
Eye Opener  Sep 6, 2005
I couldn't put it down once I got into it and that didn't take very long. There were places in this book that I believe the Holy Spirit was truly shouting. "Listen and look to see yourself in this book". What would we do if we had only 48hrs to live or better still what would we do if we knew someone we loved only had 48hrs. This book caused me to realize even more how very little we are concerned about the eternal destination of others. One of the best fiction books I have ever read. I liked the way it ended. Leaving you to think about what you would do if you were in their places.
thought-provoking and convicting  Aug 17, 2005
Who on earth could cause thousands upon thousands of people to die just from receiving a "death watch notice"? Terrorists? The Russian mafia? Reporters Sydney St. James and Hunz Vonner do their best to find out. Along the way they see heartache, but retain their hope to stop the sweeping epidemic of death.

This novel was reminiscent of Peretti's Darkness books as far as the supernatural element. While farfetched, the book achieved (at least for me) what the authors intended. I was reminded of the brevity of our lives here on earth. Of the tragedy when unsaved people die and go to hell. Of my commission to take the gospel into all the world.

Death is a difficult topic to cover for anyone. Cavenaugh and Kuiper make their points while entertaining the reader and drawing them in with loveable and hateable characters.

I have a hard time categorizing this book, or even comparing it to others. It was enjoyable, and definitely different from anything else I've read.

All in all, I recommend it for its good writing, believable characters, relevant topic, and ability to make me want to keep reading.

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