In today’s world, we go out with the knowledge that many of our actions can and likely will be recorded by cameras. Whether we’re shopping for clothing or groceries, driving to a friend’s house or simply going for a walk, the likelihood is ever present. It’s this notion that is, in some ways, present within Lisa Jewell’s latest mystery/thriller, Watching You. However, instead of being about Big Brother, this particular book focuses more on everyday people who happen to be interested in watching one another.
Set in an English town, Watching You follows several different characters, with the main one arguably being a 27 year-old woman named Joey Mullen. Joey, or Josephine as she’s sometimes called, is as attractive as she is confused, and is still attempting to figure her life out three years shy of 30. She’s married to a stud of a fledgling house painter, but doesn’t feel very happy, especially given the recent death of her amazing mom. It doesn’t help that she’s had difficulty finding work since returning to England, and has been forced to move into her heart surgeon of a brother’s swanky home up on a hill, where he lives with his very pregnant wife.
It isn’t long before Joey sees, then runs into, a very attractive middle-aged man named Tom Fitzwilliam. A headmaster at a local school, he’s the charming authority figure who people call when they need to turn a struggling school around. It just so happens that his newest post is at an academy close to Joey’s home. That is why, after living all over the country, the Fitzwilliam family — which is made up of Tom, his athletic wife and his teenage son, Freddie — has rented a home two doors down from the Mullens’.
Most of Watching You cycles through the vantage points and minds of Joey, Freddie Fitzwilliam and a young teenage girl named Jenna, who’s dealing with looking after her mentally ill mother. While Joey is watching her middle-aged crush, Freddie uses high-tech binoculars to follow attractive young girls and document their everyday comings and goings. Meanwhile, Jenna — who happens to be one of his teenage fixations — lives with a mother who thinks that she is being gang stalked.
Of course, in typical thriller fashion, a murder is committed and we spend the rest of the book attempting to figure out who committed it. Part of Joey’s boot was found at the crime scene, but did she actually commit the murder? Or did somebody else? It’s a pretty pedestrian mystery, and one that isn’t too difficult to solve, with an underwhelming ending leaving one feeling disappointed. At least, that’s what happened with me.
Although I went in hoping to love this book, I ended up being disappointed with Watching You. That’s not to say that it was bad, though. It’s simply mediocre and underwhelming, and will likely be too predictable for some. The characters are unfortunately quite one dimensional, as well as rather easily forgettable, since there’s nothing too unique about any of them.
This isn’t the first Lisa Jewell book that I’ve read. Last summer, I borrowed her last novel, Then She Was Gone, from a local library. After finding it to be pretty good, I got excited when I heard that this novel was in the works and set for a 2019 release. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to the expectations I’d had, or meet the level of its predecessor.
Lisa Jewell is a decent writer and author, and not every book will be as good as another. That’s okay. Thus, I’m hoping that this will just be a minor speed bump in this novelist’s career. I know that she has at least two other books in circulation, and plan to read both of them soon.
At the end of the day, Watching You is something that I must disappointingly only recommend to those who are either big Lisa Jewell fans or happen to be starved for a thriller to read. There’s a lot better out there, but this is at least a relatively decent book to spend a few to several cozy nights with. It won’t set your world on fire, though, and definitely isn’t as good as Then She Was Gone.
**This review is based on a review copy that we were provided by the book’s publisher.**