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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

‘The Watcher’ by Ross Armstrong

Published by HarperCollins,
29 December 2017.
ISBN 978-0-00-818118-5

Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate earmarked for demolition and rejuvenation. The idea is to regenerate the whole area but some of the inhabitants of the old estate refuse to leave. Lily is intrigued by the social divide as the area becomes increasingly gentrified and though living in her plush new flat empathises with the inhabitants of the condemned estate.

Described by the Guardian as an eerie atmospheric reworking of Hitchcock's Rear Window, Lily is a detached character who watches from her balcony window through binoculars. An avid bird watcher as a child, Lily not only identifies species of bird inhabiting the area but uses the opportunity to spy on her neighbours. Her character is obsessive and brooding and when a student goes missing and then an elderly resident is murdered she takes it upon herself to investigate.  But Lily is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Told first person present tense in journal format, which is addressed to her father, reality and fantasy are indistinguishable so that the reader is left wondering exactly what has happened, how much is real and how much is a figment of Lily's imagination as she is clearly holding a lot back.

The chapter structure counting down to the significant event makes for a dark, intriguing and foreboding read and leads to a fast-paced conclusion in this debut psychological thriller.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Ross Armstrong is a British stage and screen actor who has performed in the West End of London, on Broadway and in theatres throughout the UK. After gaining a BA in English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University, Ross joined the National Youth Theatre where his contemporaries included Matt Smith and Rafe Spall. The idea for his debut novel The Watcher came to him when he moved into a new apartment block and discovered whilst looking at the moon through binoculars that he could see into his neighbours’ homes. Thankfully for them, he put down his binoculars and picked up his pen.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015. 

A review of The Taste of Ash can be read here

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