‘She’s watching you.
But who’s watching her?’
The Watcher is the debut novel from RADA trained and screen actor Ross Armstrong. Described as a ‘fast-paced, disturbing psychological thriller exploring middle class guilt, gentrification, and the madness of modern metropolitan living.’
Published on 29th December 2016, I was very lucky to receive an advanced copy from the lovely people at HQ Stories (Harper Collins)
A wonderfully different book, please read on for my thoughts…
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?
The Watcher is as the name suggests. Lily Gullick is a birdwatcher.
Always fascinated by the different species of birds growing up, Lily, encouraged by her father, spent quite a bit of time studying their habitats and behaviour. As Lily marries and moves to a new development of apartments her fascination soon moves from birds to people.
The complex Lily now lives in is built on the grounds of an old demolished block of flats. The whole area is being revamped, inviting a new group of people to settle in the area. Like many cities today across the developing world, the poor in society are being moved on to make way for the gentrification of urban areas. One of the fallouts of this development is the falling apart of a community, as each block is gradually demolished to make way for the modern homes.
Lily becomes fascinated, almost obsessive, with her neighbours. She watches them day and night, marking out their details and applying names to them, giving them personalities and imagined lives. Neighbours no longer know each other and the flow of people through the new development is constant. There are investors renting out premises thus adding to the influx of strangers to a community that is no more.
On one such occasion, behind the cover of her binoculars, Lily becomes aware of a gathering of people at one of the original tower blocks. Running to the scene, she soon discovers an elderly neighbour, Jean, has been found dead.
Lily, not entirely happy, with how the police deal with Jean’s death, decides to take matters into her own hands.
What follows is a wonderfully different story. Lily’s obsessive behaviour, blinds her to the danger that she places herself in. Lily considers herself almost invincible. She places herself in situations that others would shun.
The Watcher is written in first voice. Lily is telling her story as she becomes a one-man vigilante. We get an insight into her humour, her thoughts, her ability to convince herself that what she is doing is right.
The Watcher is a great psychological thriller. The tension is palpable as you turn the pages at speed (which you will do!!)
Once in awhile a book comes along that just throws you a curve ball. The Watcher for me was one of those books.
It’s quirky, it’s definitely got a touch of Hitchcock and it’s just refreshingly different from many other psychological thriller on the bookshelves today. As you read this book, prepare yourself for a few questions, a few WTF moments but mainly prepare yourself for a cracking read.
Ross Armstrong is definitely a writer to watch. His style of writing is quite unique which appeals to me. From page to page I was unsure of the journey I was being taken on, but as I approached the end it was a journey I was very happy to have been on.
If you are looking for a refreshing, alternative read, may I suggest you pick up a copy of The Watcher…..I really don’t think you will be disappointed!!!
Purchase Link : The Watcher
About the Author:
Ross Armstrong is an actor and writer based in North London. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and acting at RADA.
He’s performed on stage with the RSC in shows such as Oppenheimer in the West End and with the Donmar in Hamlet on Broadway, as well as numerous TV appearances including Foyles War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and the upcoming series of Ripper Street.
The Watcher is his first novel.