Lily lives with her writer husband in their modern apartment, minus the usual trappings of children and pets. It’s a quiet life, despite the teeming masses of humanity that share the apartment complex with them. It is the coming and going of the other residents, plus those across the street also, that compels Lily to obsessively people watch. Likening her new hobby to “birding”, Lily becomes more and more immersed in being the unseen observer and becomes more organized in her approach to her daily observations.
Creating a population chart for her complex is just the start. Pretending she is a doctor, in order to get the preferential slice of the buildings dodgy Wi-Fi, is another step down Lily’s personal corridor of lies and half truths. Despite being someone who prefers to remain at a distance from the lives of others, Lily finds herself immersed in a local murder mystery. Not only that, she herself becomes a suspect. Lily may have just seen too much.
You do want to Lily to succeed, as her clumsy and inept forays into investigating the murder of her neighbour are almost charming. She is a lone woman against the world and her husband is of little or no help. You do feel her frustration when the efforts of others to shut her down send her into further distress and disarray. Lily is one person who truly needs to get to the truth. The red herrings are largely due to the floundering of Lily herself and the structure of the murder mystery is not that complicated; you will need to wade in and wait quite a while for the major plot twist.
The recent popular novels referenced as comparisons to THE WATCHER do lead us to suspect an unreliable narrator, and it is this that drives the reader forward in what is otherwise a slow moving novel. What did Lily actually see? What interactions has Lily really had with her suspect neighbours and what is her involvement with the murder itself? THE WATCHER struggles to keep the action moving forward, and on reflection at novel’s end it is hard to determine why it is that Lily keeps persisting.