Title: Watching You
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: December 26, 2018
Genre: Adult Fiction, Murder Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 5 Stars
I was sent Watching You by the publicists over at Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks goes to Atria Books as well as the author, Lisa Jewell for this advanced reader copy that is to be published tomorrow, December 26th.
Watching You is is a very strategically written play on perspective that keeps readers on the edges of their seats. The storyline surrounds the murder of the quiet and acquiescent wife of a both beloved and suspicious new figure in the neighborhood, Tom Fitzwilliam. Women find themselves instantly in a fit of passion for this man from the students at the schools he perfects, to his own neighbors. However, there are little quirks here and there that lead those who divest themselves in him to wonder about his loyalty to his plain wife, the innocence of his close relationships with his female students, and his marked past.
The central theme that overlays the novel is the idea of being watched, or being the one who does the watching. This is not a new idea in the place of the novel, but the way Jewell reintroduces the theme presents itself as a creepy ensemble of mystery and thrill that results in an overall dark and suspenseful tone that pervades the novel.
The murder takes place in a quite and desirable neighborhood of Melville, Bristol with charismatically colorful houses owned by business professionals, and those swimming in money and academia. The only evidence left following the crime is a single, red boot tassel that point to an attractive middle aged woman who was known to have quite an obsession with the victim, Joey Mullen. The newlywed lives only a few houses away from Tom with her new husband Alfie. Working on getting their lives sorted out, the couple moves in with Joey’s brother and his dry and purse lipped wife. In the midst of a crisis in her marriage, professional “career,” and her future, Joey’s sudden infatuation with the middle-aged headmaster leads Joey into a loopy and tangled mess that leads her into a deep hole of impulsive actions and unfortunate events.
The story opens with this lifeless corpse strewn across the kitchen floor with repeated stabbings marking her destroyed body. It is only a matter of hours before Joey is taken in for questioning, as prime suspect of the murder. With Joey’s boot tassel being the only source of evidence lying in the pool of blood, is it not obvious that she is the murderer ?
Joey is not the only one who displays a peculiar fascination for Tom however. The borderline psychotic mother of one of Mr. Fitzwilliam’s students is skeptical of Tom and can often be found standing outside his home looking up through his windows, curious about the lives lead on the inside. And then there is Freddie, Mr. Fitzwilliam’s lanky and awkward teenage son with a compulsive habit of watching all his neighbors through a pair of handy binoculars, and documenting their lives in his own personal series of photographs that he collects on his computer.
The alternating perspectives make the novel quick-paced and suspenseful as the reader struggles in decided who is to blame for the murder. Joey, Jenna, a student at Tom’s school, Freddie, and interviews following the murder compromise the perspectives from which the story is told. While one character like, Jenna has only what she remembers of Tom from a few years ago during a vacation, Freddie sees everything and would seem the most reliable source. But then there is Joey with her blinding infatuation. Woven layers of discoverable truths, tangled intricacies, and possible inaccuracies, Watching You is a woven story all about disconnections and the consequences that are marked with watching and being watched.