Review: Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt (5/5)

Monday 13 October 2014
A #1 psychological thriller in UK, US, Germany and Australia and #3 overall bestseller in the top ten on Kindle UK.

Following the death of her husband and unborn child, Charley Belington sells the family home and bravely starts life over again. On moving into a new flat, she is befriended by her landlady, Ella, who seems like the perfect friend and confidante.

But, unbeknown to Charley, Ella is fighting her own dark and dirty demons as the fallout from a horrific childhood sends her spiralling down into madness—and unspeakable obsessions. As Ella’s mind splinters, her increasingly bizarre attentions make Charley uneasy. But with every step Charley tries to take to distance herself, Ella moves in a tightening lockstep with her, closer and closer and closer…

From the bestselling author of Taunting the Dead comes a raw, intense, sexually charged and darkly claustrophobic psychological thriller that grabs you by the back of the neck and never lets you go…

I finished this book and could almost hear my heart beating it was going that fast. This book should come with a health warning. Mel has been on my TBR for a long time but as any book lover will know, a never-ending TBR is both a blessing and a curse. We always have something to read, just not enough time for all of them. Since starting the blog one thing that has astounded me is the generosity of authors. I have received a number of signed books and when Mel offered two of hers for review I was incredibly grateful. I didn't quite toss a coin but it was a difficult choice between this and Taunting the Dead for my first read but I decided to go with this.

The blurb and cover gives a fair idea of what to expect, so I started this book feeling very excited and a little apprehensive. We meet Charley who is attempting to move on after the death of her husband. She finds a flat and meets her landlady, Ella. Ella is lonely. Desperate for a friend, or a relationship she has an unhealthy obsession with sex, meeting people for one night stands (on a website designed for that purpose) only to then wonder why nobody ever wants more. Why nobody wants her. Charley moves into the flat on a short term basis, beforehand though she notices a nosy neighbour and given that we know something of what's to come it was almost amusing that she was a little freaked out. 'She wasn't sure she wanted a neighbour watching her every move. It seemed a little creepy.' Little did she know that danger lurked in the very house she was moving into, and not in the house of a lonely old lady across the road. At first all Ella wants is for Charley to be her friend, however it isn't long until things take a turn for the worse and we discover just how far Ella is willing to go to find a friend.

It's incredibly hard to discuss the plot further without giving stuff away but the character of Ella is absolutely terrifying and not somebody you would want to get on the wrong side of. With serious mental issues because of a horrific upbringing she clearly needs help but manages to hide it well for the most part. She was a very well developed character with an interesting and at times heartbreaking backstory. With the use of diary entries we learn what made her the person she is today, reading about her life almost makes you feel sorry for her however her actions in the present soon change that. It also freaked me out how some of the characters eventually came to be connected and it didn't feel contrived how they were connected.

I felt that it took a while for the story to really get going. If I'm honest certain aspects felt a bit repetitive. For example Ella going out to have sex with randoms, or pleasuring herself in her window for the perv over the road just got a bit boring after a while so I was waiting for the action to kick in. This is going to sound terrible but in the beginning I actually wanted Ella to be worse than she was. Having recently finished a book where a man becomes obsessed with his neighbour and attempts to take over his life, I wanted something similar to happen here and at times it just felt like Ella was all talk and some things just felt a bit tame. As a reader of some pretty brutal crime fiction, I wanted some of that here. Having said all that the book picks up considerably in the second half and everything I wished for came true.

Out of the two characters Ella was the most interesting. You almost find yourself wanting to shake Charley, to scream at her to get out yet at the same time knowing that would make for a boring story. Given her job she comes across as a bit stupid at times, and I actually found her to be quite dull most of the time. Luckily Ella's story was gripping enough to more than make up for that. The last section of the book had my heart trying to escape from my chest, I just could not put the book down as cliched as that sounds. In terms of the ending I had a different scenario playing out in my head yet overall it was a satisfying ending. It's just that my warped imagination had something completely different in mind. All too often authors write a fantastic book and ruin it with the ending, I don't know if this ending was always the plan for Mel but it definitely does the story justice.

Characters don't come much more messed up than Ella and I think readers will be torn over what to think and how to feel. Charley wasn't as well developed in my opinion and I struggled to relate to her at times however I definitely felt for her when she discovered just how dangerous Ella was. In terms of the writing and storyline they very rarely get much better than this. I finished it in three sittings as once you start reading it's very hard to stop. If it was a film you would be glued to the screen yet at the same time wondering whether you should hide behind the couch and that's how I read this, addicted but at times wary to read on. Readers living in a flat or an apartment will never look at their neighbours the same way again. Although, given what the people in neighboring houses got up to in this book I guess we will all look at our neighbours differently! Brilliant stuff and I'm very excited to read more of Mel's books.

Thanks to Mel Sherratt for the review copy.

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