Written by Michael Robotham — At the end of last year I was asked to pick my top five books of 2012, and Michael Robotham’s Say You’re Sorry was top of the pile. It is now on the longlist for the CWA Gold Dagger award, alongside the likes of Lauren Beukes and Sam Hawken for The Shining Girls and Tequila Sunset respectively, so I obviously have good taste! Since Say You’re Sorry blew me over, I was a little apprehensive at revisiting clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and ex-police detective Vincent Ruiz in a new standalone story. But I needn’t have worried, because Watching You is every bit as good as its predecessor.
Marnie Logan is desperately trying to keep her family together after the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Daniel. A former journalist with a love of gambling, he has been missing for more than a year, and the men to whom he owed a fortune are out to collect. Marnie has a teenage daughter, Zoe, and a four-year-old son, Elijah, but no way to support them. The gangsters who want their money ‘suggest’ she becomes an escort to pay off the debt, and Marnie can see no other way out but to agree.
But people who cross Marnie have a habit of coming to a sticky end, and when the man who drove her to her latest assignation is found dead – and she was the last person to have seen him alive – the police begin to take an interest in her. Marnie is a patient of psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, and he is convinced of her innocence. He is certain that someone else is causing all the mayhem that seems to follow her. Is his confidence in Marnie about to be shaken? Meanwhile, Ruiz is called upon to help his old friend, but finds himself torn between loyalty to Joe and his usually rock-solid copper’s instinct.
This is a whodunnit. Did she do it? Who else could’ve done it? The kind of a book where the reader is played like a fish on a line by the uber-skillful Robotham. Your suspicions ebb and flow like waves on a beach. At intervals, we hear the story from someone else’s perspective, although this person is shadowy and nameless and difficult to pin down. Are they real, or imaginary? On more than one occasion, I was certain I had a handle on it all, then the author would flick a switch and everything became murky again. The man was messing with my mind and I loved every minute of it.
The action is set in London and the wilds of Lancashire, and tantalising snippets of Marnie’s back story reveal more and more of her character. Or do they? As I say, it’s that kind of a book. But it is telling that the main character is called Marnie, which is also the title of an Alfred Hitchcock film about a habitual liar and thief with repressed childhood memories. Robotham’s version has certainly been molded by what happened to her in the past, and by the way she copes with what is going on in her present. I’m loath to say more, because I’d hate to spoil this book for anyone. Suffice to say that you can’t let your guard down until the final word of the final sentence of the final chapter. I can guarantee that’s when you’ll gasp in surprise once more. This is psychological thriller writing at its very best.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars