The Watcher is a crime novel largely because it is difficult to write about Chicago and not write about crime. Crime in Chicago is not an aberration, but a part of the social fabric. The central character is Chicago, its neighborhoods, its lakefront, its downtown, its foods, and its icons. The main protagonist is Winston Logan, a flawed electronic surveillance genius who not only has a god-like view of the city, but also intervenes to fight for its soul as he reclaims his own.
The battleground venue is an election for mayor between machine candidate Mayor Sean Cork running for reelection and Professor Justin Bradley, a reform candidate. Other major players are Candy Carmelo and Angelo Mosconi, of the nuevo mafia, Marco Rojas, with the press, and Max Johnson and Karl Mumfrey, police partners. Their conflicts and alliances give the city nurture to try to overcome its nature.