Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.
One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…
In Lisa Jewell’s latest brilliant “bone-chilling suspense” (People) no one is who they seem—and everyone is hiding something. Who has been murdered—and who would have wanted one of their neighbors dead? As “Jewell teases out her twisty plot at just the right pace” (Booklist, starred review), you will be kept guessing until the startling revelation on the very last page.
Watching You is touted as a domestic thriller, and the opening scene does suggest that, but then it changes. Ever play that game where you sit in a busy mall, plaza, etc and pick random people from the crowd, guessing what they're lives are like? This book brought that to mind. Everyone has a secret, and everyone seems to know or guess something about everyone else. The thing is most of these people just aren't that interesting. It felt like a bunch of nosy neighbors peeking past the curtains at everybody else. There are a lot of characters, some more important to the story than others, but they're all pretty easy to figure out, and none of them are particularly likable. There is a murder, but I had a lot of it figured out by the halfway mark, which left me with finishing it just to see if I was right. I never did get a sense of urgency, that thrill that should come with a good thriller. Instead, this one is more a meandering stroll through a neighborhood I certainly wouldn't want to live in. In the end, I would say that Watching You is a decent domestic drama, but the pacing is too slow and the story is filled with entirely too much of the mundane for the tension needed for suspense, let alone a thriller. It's one of those that is okay while you're reading it, but not something I'll remember a month from now.