The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

The Blurb On The Back:

She’s watching you.

Lily Gullick lives in a new-build flat opposite a London estate marked for demolition.  A keen birdwatcher since childhood, she can’t resist turning her binoculars on her neighbours.  Observing their daily routines and making up stories about their lives.

But one day she sees something suspicious and shortly afterwards the body of a woman is discovered.

Lily realises that she might have information about the dead woman and knows that she has to act but her interference does not go unnoticed.  And soon her own life comes under threat.

But who’s watching her?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Lily Gullick is a medical market researcher who lives in a new build apartment with her novelist husband, Aiden.  Lily’s a keen birdwatcher but she’s more interested in watching her neighbours and it’s been getting her in trouble.  Lily and Aiden’s apartment building is part of a wider regeneration project, which involves the tenants of nearby council flats being moved out so that their blocks can be knocked down.  One of the council residents – Jean – has been fighting the development with little success and one night Lily goes to see her to offer her support.  The next day Jean’s found dead and Lily’s sure that it was murder – especially as she saw some suspicious activity the evening before Jean’s death.  However the police are keen to write the death off as accidental and don’t take Lily seriously.  Forced to carry out her own investigation, Lily steps up her monitoring of her neighbours, but one of her neighbours is also watching her and it isn’t long before she finds her own life is in danger …

Ross Armstrong’s debut psychological thriller is a meandering, self-indulgent, incoherent mess, filled with twists that are far too obvious and which is hampered by a main character who’s so unreliable that rather than being mysterious, she’s self-involved to the point of being unsympathetic and dull.  The big problem with the book is Lily herself.  Her first person narration is supposed to create mystery but the big twists in her stories are guessable from the first chapter and the device of her addressing an unnamed person didn’t hold my interest (and indeed, when that person turns up in the final quarter, I had to wonder what purpose it served as that person has virtually no role to play and their conversations bored me) while Lily’s constantly doing stupid things that only exist to move the plot forward (e.g. pretending to be a doctor).  I’d picked this up because the concept of tensions on a regeneration site interested me but Armstrong does little with it – the council residents are stereotypes and the murder doesn’t really mean anything.  I guessed the culprit the moment they first appeared on the page and their reason for the murder is superficial at best while a final chase scene on an active demolition site had me rolling my eyes.  Ultimately based on this book I wouldn’t rush to read Armstrong’s next work.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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