I will freely admit it. It takes a lot to get me to genuinely appreciate time-travel. By and large, when I read something time-travel related, I spend a lot of the book rubbing my temples and sighing heavily because it just doesn't work for me. (I'm a Whovian, so it takes complicated paradoxes and unexpected twists for me to stop yawning.)
Don't worry, the introduction is not me saying "Here's how many times I fell asleep while reading htis book." (The answer is once, but that's my fault for reading in bed after a very long day.) "The Time Key" is one of the more rewarding and unconventional takes on time travel that I've read in years. The story starts with the attempted suicide of Stanley Becker, a widower who tries to end his life on the spot where his wife and daughter were killed six years before. It then follows his personal saga and adventures due to the possession of a complicated fob watch and the eponymous Time Key. It is a device that has the power to change time and the rest of the book explores what might just be done with that tool.
I'll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover, but let me talk about what impressed me:
1) The narrative style. You start the book reading a third-person limited point-of-view, but an objective and mysterious narrative voice starts breaking in by stepping back from that perspective to give you hints of other things. It took me back a bit to Jane Eyre or, at times, Terry Pratchett and I really liked that tweak of the conventional narrative.
2) The ensemble cast. Whether it's Mr. Becker's household staff or the Roma travelers who help and hinder him when he goes looking for a man he chanced to meet in the opening chapters, there is a wide variety of persons and personalities.
3) The Time Key. I looked at this device, which has clock hands to set things like days and hours, and was impressed by the almost mechanical mythology of it. It was more complicated than the Time-Turner in Harry Potter and less technical than a DeLorean.
4) The historical setting. We know the landmarks and times of the storyline. There is a reference to a barber's wife buying magazines weekly to pick up the latest adventure of Sherlock Holmes. The costuming is very well-done.
The dialogue is sometimes inconsistent. There were parts where accents that were painstakingly transcribed disappeared entirely. With the narrative voice, it's mostly true to the style and period of the characters, but when it slips, it reminds me of the time that I watched The Crucible in theaters and noticed a Greyhound bus traveling across the countryside behind a couple from the 17th Century. This is a minor flaw, but one that took me out of the story when it happened.