I always drop everything to read a new Lisa Jewell novel and life was put on hold while I zipped through nearly 500 pages of Watching You, a thriller about people in a fictional Bristol suburb who are watching one another’s every move.
Joey has left behind her Ibizan party lifestyle to start a more grown-up life in Melville Heights, Bristol, with new husband Alfie.
But as they have no money, they are forced to share a room in her brother Jack’s house and Joey takes a hellish job at the local soft play centre.
In the grey British winter, her new marriage quickly loses its lustre.
She finds herself increasingly obsessed with neighbour Tom Fitzwilliam, the handsome, charming and revered new headmaster of a local comprehensive.
Schoolgirl Jenna is also watching Mr Fitzwilliam closely, anxious that he is grooming her dozy friend Beth.
Jenna’s mother Frankie is watching Tom too.
She and Jenna recognise him from a family holiday in the Lake District years ago where a distressed woman attacked him and repeatedly demanded: “How can you live with yourself?”
Frankie knows that Tom is hiding a dark secret. But as paranoia takes over, she finds it impossible to be taken seriously.
Tom’s teenage son Freddie is a peeping Tom, watching local schoolgirls through his binoculars and compiling creepy dossiers about their every move.
But he too remembers the incident in the Lake District. And when he gets to know Jenna, he decides it is time to expose the skeletons in his father’s closet.
So whose blood-spattered body is found in the opening pages?
Who is in danger and why? Jewell writes wonderfully engaging characters who weave plausibly tangled webs and the whodunnit was largely incidental until the closing pages.
She masterfully draws all her threads together, throwing in some cunning twists for good measure.
In places the prose felt rushed but the occasional plot point that stretched credulity was easily ignored and the pace never faltered.
The countdown is on for the next Lisa Jewell novel.