Lisa Jewell’s domestic thrillers regularly show up on bestseller lists, and her latest, Watching You, should be no exception. The mysterious murder at its center unfolds gradually, as piece by piece the past and present relationships between her intriguing cast of characters begin to fit together.
Tom Fitzwilliam is the new headmaster of the Melville Academy in Bristol, England, and he’s called Superhead by the local newspaper due to his many postings to failing schools and his reputation for quickly turning them around. Tom lives with his wife, Nicola, in an upscale neighborhood. Nicola is an enigmatic, unhappy woman with a troubled past. Their only child, 14-year-old Freddie, believes he has Asperger’s. He hopes to work for MI5 one day and spends all his free time spying on the neighbors from his upstairs window, documenting what he sees with his camera and keeping a logbook of the neighborhood comings and goings.
One of Freddie’s voyeuristic targets is Joey Mullen, a young woman who lives two doors down from the Fitzwilliams. Joey is newly married and drifting from job to job. She and her husband live with Joey’s older brother, Jack, a physician, and his wife, Rebecca, a “strait-laced systems analyst.” Rebecca is pregnant, but she’s apparently not overjoyed about becoming a mother. Joey is completely smitten with Tom Fitzwilliam and begins planning how to meet him “accidentally,” which is all documented by Freddie’s watchful eyes.
Sixteen-year-old Jenna, a student at the Academy, and her mother live nearby, and they’re also subjects of Freddie’s surveillance. Jenna’s mother, who increasingly shows signs of paranoia, seems to believe she saw the Fitzwilliam family on holiday years ago, and that they were involved in an unpleasant incident that she can’t quite remember.
From the novel’s early pages, Jewell includes excerpts from police interviews conducted at the Bristol police station. The reader knows someone has been murdered but not their identity. Little by little, Jewell sprinkles clues about the pasts of each of her characters, and these hidden connections to the victim may turn out to be motives to commit murder. But only near the end does one suspect emerge as the killer—and a shocking final revelation completely takes the reader by surprise.