Book Title: The Watcher
Author: Ross Armstrong
REVIEWED BY: MARY
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: 12/29/16
She’s watching you, but who’s watching her?
Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat.
But can Lily really trust everything she sees?
I often read late into the night and given that my favorite genre is Suspense; I often misconstrue things that go bump in the night. Noises that would be commonplace during the day have a way of scaring me senseless at 2 a.m. after a few chapters of a good Thriller. I have also been known to conjure up a shape from a shadow. My husband’s jeans slung over the top of the closet door shifts into a man standing in my closet. The hamper looks like a man crouching in my closet. The shower curtain entirely closed most certainly has a man waiting to murder me behind it. My mind tends to play tricks on me when I’m scared.
My husband jokes that because I read so many suspense novels, I have developed a gift for turning mundane, everyday things into murder mystery plot lines. I don’t argue with him, it truly is a gift. I’m able to reel it in and let logic prevail, it just takes a little longer at 2 a.m.than it does at noon. So, sure, I’ve armed myself with a 4D flashlight in the middle of the night and prepared to heroically knock out an intruder (that somehow got passed our alarm) only to find that the source of the terrifying noise was the ice maker (even though it really did sound like someone sharpening an axe, not that I’ve ever heard an axe being sharpened, but I can imagine it).
I get swept up in what I’m reading, which is usually heart pounding, nail biting suspense, and I love it. Lily gets swept up in her bird watching. She takes copious notes about her subjects in order to be sure that what she’s watching is truly what she thinks it is. She categorizes the birds by size and color and flight patterns, habits and sounds, whether they are alone or not and always where she has spotted them. She puts a great deal of time and effort into her hobby, which is endearing. The purpose of a hobby is that it makes you happy and allows you to unwind and enjoy your free time. That is what bird watching does for Lily. Until it doesn’t.
Lily stops watching birds through her binoculars and starts watching her neighbors instead. Accidentally at first, because she lives in a new building and the surrounding buildings are marked for demolition to create a new living community that will change the face of the up and coming neighborhood, there is a lot of construction and foot traffic to distract from the birds. Everyday there are more people moving out of the old buildings that will be torn down, and new people coming to look at the plans for the new properties so they can buy units in the buildings that are to come. Lily begins to people watch more and more as the days go on. It serves as a distraction from the fact that she hates her job and the fact that she and husband are growing farther and farther apart.
At first, it’s all fun and light hearted, a way to pass the time. She makes up names and identities for them and has a good laugh at her imagination. Until one day, Lily sees something menacing through her binoculars. At least, she thinks she does. She can’t be entirely sure with the lighting. But what can she do? Telling the police she thinks she witnessed a crime while she was spying on her neighbors seems like a terrible plan. While she tries to figure out if she’s sure of what she saw and how to deal with it if it is, a neighbor is murdered.
Lily is convinced that the person responsible for the murder is the same man she saw through her binoculars abusing a woman in his apartment. Knowing that she can’t go to the police with her theory, Lily begins to investigate on her own. As she becomes more and more immersed in her theories, she begins to take greater risks to prove them, putting herself in dangerous situations and places she is not meant to be. She begins to scare herself with the risks she taking and the thrill she gets from taking them. Her innocent watching hobby quickly turns into an obsession and the lines between what she pretends to know about the people she watches and what she truly knows about them begin to blur. Lily begins to lose her grasp on what is real and what is fantasy. By the time she’s able to unravel fact from fiction, Lily isn’t sure whom to trust, or if she can even trust herself, but knows for certain she is grave danger. Terrified and desperate, Lily’s actions spiral and she finds herself unprepared for the nightmare that is waiting for her.
The Watcher is a heart pounding, suspense filled psychological thriller that kept me guessing and jumping at noises that go bump in the night from start to finish. This dark and twisty, 4 star read pairs well Liars Dice Red Zin and an overactive imagination.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.