Written by Camilla Way — It’s really tricky to type when your jaw has dropped so much it is touching the keyboard, trust me. I can guarantee you’ll still be in shock hours after finishing this astonishing book, and desperately wanting to share with someone else who has experienced this conniving corkscrew of a psychological thriller.
My interest was initially piqued when the review copy arrived tied up with string, bearing a label saying “Are you watching, Sandra?” and accompanied by a photo of me, roughly cut into pieces. A week or so later, a sachet of instant Horlicks was delivered, along with a soothing face mask – to help me cope with the ravages of reading through the night, I gather. A bit of imaginative PR can go a long way!
But the proof of a good book is in the reading, and right from the off this novel had its tentacles wrapped around me. Watching Edie is the third novel for journalist and magazine editor Camilla Way and it is surely destined for great things.
The timeline metronomes between present day London and the fictional backwater town of Fremton, 17 years ago, where newly arrived, lovely, talented wild child Edie is preparing to start sixth form at a new school. Perennial misfit Heather attempts to make friends with the newcomer and is amazed when her advances aren’t rebuffed. Thus begins a strange friendship that is destined to fall apart in spectacular fashion.
Young Edie had ambitions to go to art college in London and the present day Edie is indeed living in the capital, but instead of living the highlife in a fancy loft apartment, she languishes in a scruffy rented flat, working as a waitress and preparing, alone, for the arrival of a baby, the result of a brief dalliance with a married man. She realises the child will make a huge change in her life – little does she know just how much…
Into Edie’s lonely existence comes a blast from the past. She and Heather parted on bad terms, all those years ago. Now her old friend is back, and surprisingly keen to rekindle the friendship. There has always been something a little off about Heather and it soon becomes apparent that she hasn’t improved with age. Edie sends her on her way, but has Heather really gone? As the baby’s arrival approaches, Edie gets the feeling that someone is watching her.
The unsettling undercurrent of this book is enhanced by that aforementioned alternating timeline approach – and the fact that we see the past from Heather’s viewpoint and the present from Edie’s warps perceptions like a visit to the hall of mirrors at the fairground. Something really bad happened way back when and you will be kept guessing for a long, long time before finding out what actually transpired.
The psychological thriller sub-genre is vastly overpopulated these days, but every now and then a book comes along which stands out from the crowd. I’ve not experienced such a punch-in-the-gut moment of realisation since Clare Mackintosh’s award-winning I Let You Go – and the utter shock of it put me in mind of another favourite of recent years, Kevin Sampson’s The Killing Pool. Both made my top five of the year and I’ve no doubt that Watching Edie is about to join them at the end of 2016. That’s how bloody good it is!
Read our interview with Camilla Way here. Watching Edie is out on 28 July.
Print, Kindle, iBook
CFL Rating: 5 Stars