The Watcher by Ross Armstrong
The Watcher by Ross Armstrong quotes in the blurb ‘The Girl on the Train meets Rear Window’ and although I haven’t read the first book I can definitely agree with the Rear Window vibe which runs very strongly throughout this story.
Lily and her husband Aiden live in a newly built-for-purpose apartment in North London. Unfortunately an old estate is being demolished to make way for this new development, not the first or last time that that will ever happen I grant you, and feelings run high on the remaining areas of the estate where some of the tenants are hanging onto their homes until the bitter end. Lily and Aiden have an easy going relationship. Aiden is a writer, a little down on his luck but with previous successes behind him which enabled the two to buy this luxury home. Lily goes out to work to support the two of them and every day her journey takes her past the estate and her feelings of guilt rise to the surface! One elderly lady called Jean has become something of a celebrity on the estate, speaking out about the new development and Lily feels drawn to her and pays her a visit one evening. Unfortunately, the next day Jean is found dead – murdered – and Lily takes to talking to other people on the estate which leads her to the suspicion that somebody from the new apartments is the murderer. This is the point at which Lily starts to use her bird watching equipment to spy on her neighbours to try and follow the trail of breadcrumbs to a murderer. Is she putting herself into danger though?
Okay, this might sound like a standard murder mystery with a curtain twitching nosey neighbour, but, what actually raises this book above the norm is the way in which the story is told. The narrator is basically unreliable and even at this point I’m not entirely sure which aspects of her story I can really trust in. This is definitely the sort of book that could quite easily lend itself to being reread – yes, you would lose the surprise that certain twists in the story deliver, but I think there would definitely be things that were overlooked on a first read – particularly for me, as sometimes I find myself racing to discover what’s going on in a book of this type. On top of this the chapters are all headed with a rather ominous set of titles that seem to count down the days – until ‘something’, whatever that might be, happens. So, for example, ‘7 days till it comes’. What? Until what comes?? *Queue inexplicable sense of dread and unease.*
Anyway, not to ramble. It’s pretty difficult to say too much about this without giving away the tension that an unspoiled read will create so I’m not going to go any further into details of the plot.
What I can say is that the author has managed to create a wonderful sense of anxious anticipation. The book begins fairly calmly and allows you to settle in, then gradually the tension starts to creep, little niggles, doubts and question marks start to pop up. You experience moments of absolute astonishment as Lily seems to put herself in the most remarkably dangerous situations which have you wringing your hands and shouting instructions at her like a maniac ‘run’, ‘get out of there’, etc, until finally the plot crashes out of the station at breakneck speed to the final reveal.
The setting is really well drawn. I had this image of a fairly run down estate jostling cheek by jowl with a worksite and a number of already completed luxury apartments. It gives the author such a lot of potential to lead Lily into dark and creepy situations. On top of that the view from Lily’s window where she stalks her neighbours. It all feels so claustrophobic and, lets face it, a little voyeuristic and completely lends itself to the overall state of fear and panic that the author gradually builds.
Lily, well, she’s a conundrum. I’m not going to give anything away about her. She’s incredibly foolish for someone who is trying to outwit a killer. Can you rely on her? In fact how do you know she’s not implicated? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to find out.
I found this an engrossing read. I read it almost in the blink of an eye and it was a lovely change from my predominantly fantasy reads. If you enjoy a good mystery, one that will be a little different than the norm due to the narrator’s state of mind – then give this one a go.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, though Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.