Published: 1st October 2017
Started reading: January 2
Finished reading: January 11
Trigger warnings: Missing person storyline, sexual assault
I read this book as a buddy read with my friend Gem @ Glimpsing Gembles, and I have to thank her once again for our lengthy, insightful discussions. We were both gripped by this book!
When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.
A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.
Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.
Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.
I really, really liked this book. It consumed me to the extent that by the end it almost had me in a trance, such was the tension and oceanic depth of this intricate, multi-faceted thriller. Almost everything about it made for highly impressive reading.
Right from the very first page, I was entirely gripped, and that feeling never wavered. In fact, it only accelerated the more I neared the end. Not only did it present such a fascinating and captivating mystery, the character building is magnificently detailed and nuanced, which is unlike so many other, more exclusively plot-driven, books in this genre.
We see a lot of books that are told from multiple POVs. Sometimes this can have a negative effect, but here is works perfectly, and offers the ideal platform to get to know each character – all connected to Anna’s disappearance – extremely well. It makes for a very good take on the missing person trope, which is quite common in recent thrillers.
This book rotates between four main POVs, which definitely seems like a lot, but each individual storyline was so rich with content and suspense that I didn’t mind. In fact, it probably made me connect with the story even more, and the short chapters meant that I was not kept waiting too long in my desperation to find out what happened next!
The plot is the overarching thing that drives this book, but the characters, the goings on within their lives, and their individual involvement in the case add so much more and help make this such a compelling story.
Ella is the main narrator and her POV is told in the first person. She is a very likeable character, and I like how it feels that she is communicating with the reader, sometimes narrating in second person. Her aspect of the story presents a moral dilemma at the beginning, which to be honest felt disappointingly tenuous. Then comes the tension in that she is being watched.
The POVs of Anna’s father Henry, and her best friend Sarah, are both told in the third person. I found both of their stories quite powerful, and at times upsetting. They felt like very well-drawn characters, as while they had their flaws and were living in regret of their mistakes, I often sympathised with them.
The writing style is engaging with a pace that I would describe as unhurried – it is occasionally quite slow, but it does pick up a great deal later on. The author does brilliantly to build the tension and increase the suspense, presenting numerous strands to the story and various possibilities about what really happened to Anna. I could not stop turning the pages!
So far, so very good. If only I did not have such mixed feelings over the ending, I might have considered giving a five-star rating.
On the one hand, the final chapters are exceedingly and palpably tense, with some dramatic and unexpected twists along the way. However, the resolution relies on too many unlikely coincidences, which felt like they were there solely for the convenience of the plot. Other apparently crucial plot points were wrapped up in the space of just one or two lines. Finally, in my heart of hearts, it just was not the ending I was really hoping for.
That is a shame, because overall this is a fantastic book. A completely immersive and absorbing read, with superbly drawn and likeable characters. I shall definitely look out for more of Teresa Driscoll’s work, because on this evidence she knows how to write a pulsating thriller.
A former television presenter for BBC News, Teresa Driscoll has had a long career as a writer of women’s fiction, but more recently has turned her hand to crime and suspense. I Am Watching You is her first book in this genre, while The Friend was released in 2018.
She lives in Devon with her husband and two children, and blogs regularly about her writing life on her website.
I found so much to like in this book, and although there is the occasional flaw here and there, along with a mixed ending, the level of tension and the quality of the writing and character building had me fully immersed.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5