Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees?
Lily watches her neighbours - they are all laid out like a snapshot of Celebrity Squares - each in their own square. Using her bird watching experience she categorises them and makes notes on each of them in the form of field notes. Even at one point making a grid to record their sightings and habits. Each chapter is prefaced by the field notes for the particular person she is currently watching. Together with a chilling heading "42 days till it comes" which slowly counts down through the book. She's watching them, but soon she will be doing much more than just watching.
There is a Council block of flats earmarked for demolition opposite the new build Lily lives in. One of the tenants living there until the end is Jean, who Lily decides to visit - in the middle of the night which I found a little strange, even if it is because she can't sleep, that she sees her light on and wants to connect. The next morning Jean is dead! Lily gets ushered right into Jean's flat to pronounce her dead because people think she's a Doctor......... but she isn't.
I found the book really absorbing and also with a little dark humour. So many little nuances - what do they all mean?
Lily with her wash bag pretending to be a Doctor because people think she is one - how would that happen?
Her husband Aiden who seems to do nothing but stay in the flat undermine her confidence and demand he be made coffees!
Her neighbours who she knows so much about apart from their real names and the ability to strike up a conversation with them because they don't even know her.
Lily narrates the book through the form of a what seems to be a very long letter to someone - whom we do not know. She questions her sanity - I question it - is any of this real? Two thirds into the book we begin to get some answers and I inwardly congratulate myself on having sussed this book out from the beginning. Except - I didn't- I really didn't and that's when the book changes again. A twist on a twist. A heart racing finale - what is going on with Lily - what are her neighbours up to?
I don't do spoilers so you will have to read this very original book for yourself to find out.
I'm giving it 5 out of 5 stars. My thanks go to Netgalley for an advance copy to review. The Watcher is out on 29 December.