Review: WATCHING YOU by Lisa Jewell
Also by this author: The Family Upstairs, The Night She Disappeared
Published by Atria Books on December 26, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Lisa Jewell’s latest novel Watching You is the thrilling domestic drama you need in your life. It’s a murder mystery that is filled with suspense, complicated characters, and a myriad of plot twists that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the final piece of the puzzle is in place and the murderer is revealed.
Watching You is set in an upscale neighborhood in Bristol, England, and although several of the neighbors play important roles in the overall story, the novel primarily follows a character named Joey Mullen. Joey apparently has a history of not always making the best choices in life and so when we meet her, she has just moved back to Bristol with her brand-new husband (who she has only known for a few months) and the two of them are living with Joey’s brother and sister-in-law while they try to find jobs and save up to get a place of their own.
One night Joey encounters Tom Fitzwilliam, the beloved headmaster at one of the local schools, and she, like most of the female student body at his school, develops a crush on Tom. Even though he is happily married and therefore unavailable, Joey thinks about him all the time, makes up excuses to walk near his home to see if she can catch a glimpse of him, and goes out of her way to find ways to cross paths with Tom. She thinks her secret crush is safe, but she doesn’t realize that Tom’s son, Freddie, has been watching her just as much as she has been watching Tom.
Ah yes, the watching. That’s what it’s all about with Watching You. Everyone in this novel is watching and spying on someone else. It’s disturbing and yet also quite fascinating because none of them are as innocent as they would like for their neighbors to believe. They all have secrets they’re trying to keep hidden, but at the same time, they’re almost desperate to find some dirt on their neighbors and in the end, everyone involved gets way more than they bargained for…
There’s so much to love about this book because Jewell just sets up the drama so perfectly. She opens the novel by introducing us to Joey, Tom, and a few of their neighbors but then immediately hits us with a murder. She starts building up the suspense immediately too because she doesn’t give the reader any details as to who the victim is or what has happened. I was hooked right away and immediately started looking closely at the characters I had met so far, trying to figure out who might be the victim, who might be the murderer, etc.
Speaking of the characters, Watching You is filled with realistically flawed characters, any of whom seem capable of having murdered someone. Each of the neighbors had messy, complicated lives and their individual dramas just added so many more layers to the story that made it so much more than just a murder mystery. It was interesting to learn more about each of them and to watch them in action. Fallible is probably the best word to describe them because mistakes and human error play a large role in the story. As I’ve mentioned, these neighbors like to observe each other, but not only do they observe, they judge and make assumptions about people, they take things out of context and try to fit them into whatever narrative they’re trying to spin, and unfortunately, more often than not, they’re wrong.
All of these wrongs are what Jewell skillfully weaves into the narrative to drive the story along. She presents the story to us from the viewpoints of several of the neighbors, so we get to see several perspectives as to what is going on in the neighborhood. Those chapters move us forward toward the murder so we are able to see what tensions are mounting throughout the neighborhood – who might have been a likely target, as well as who might have the biggest motive to commit the crime. Interspersed throughout, however, are also police interviews with the various neighbors to specifically give us their thoughts and theories about the murder. The novel’s structure actually reminded me a lot of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and it works here just as well as it did there. It really made for a fast-paced read that held my attention throughout, and the more I read, the more I desperately wanted to know who was dead and who had done it.
Overall, I really enjoyed Watching You. I thought the pacing was fantastic and I loved how Jewell kept the suspense and tension building throughout the novel. The only aspect of Watching You that fell a little short for me was that I didn’t really feel much of a connection to any of the characters. Joey was probably the character I connected with the most, but even then, for the most part, I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. Maybe that’s fitting since this is a story full of people watching each other, but that distance kept this from being a 5 star read for me.
Lisa Jewell’s Watching You is a riveting read that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys domestic thrillers. If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty’s books, you would probably enjoy this one too. This was my first time reading Lisa Jewell but I’m looking forward to reading more of her twisty thrillers!
Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods 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…
Fantastic review Suzanne! You make me want to read it yet I don’t usually read thrillers or crime but I am slowly changing my mind reading all my fellow bloggers reviews 😉 Just one problem: I need to connect with the characters to truly enjoy the story.
Thanks Sophie. I still really enjoyed it even though I didn’t connect with the characters. Have you tried Liane Moriarty’s books? They’re similar in style but I usually do feel a connection to her characters.
I cannot wait to read this one!! Great review!
I like your comparison to Liane Moriarty – I do enjoy her books, so might have to check this one out! Great review!
Thanks! If you like domestic thrillers, it should hopefully be a good read for you.
I enjoyed this one, too, Suzanne, and you summarized perfectly why it wasn’t a five star read for me, too. I don’t have to have likable characters but I just couldn’t fully connect with anyone. I like your point about it being done for a reason- on the outside looking in. Terrific review!
Thanks! Yes, I really enjoyed it too and it could have easily been a five-star if I had felt a connection to any of the characters.
I need to read this! I’m so glad to see that you really enjoyed it and thought it was a good mystery.
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It definitely kept me guessing all the way to the end.