Vicky Newham

Are You Watching Me? by Sinéad Crowley – a review

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This is a lively police procedural set in Dublin, with an intriguing and contemporary plot. It is the second to feature DS Claire Boyle.

After a few challenging years, Liz Cafferky’s life is looking up in the form of a new job doing something which she enjoys and is good at. Rescued from the problems of her past by Tom Carthy, the owner of a drop-in centre for homeless and lonely men, called Tir na nOg, Liz soon finds herself the charity’s public face. She runs its publicity and social media and after a television interview  ‘goes viral’, she becomes the overnight focus of the Dublin media.

Then one of the centre’s clients, James Mannion, is found dead in his house, not through natural causes or suicide, but brutally murdered. This man is very different from many of the centre’s clientele.

It is easy to understand how, amidst her busy job and newfound attention, Liz doesn’t pay much attention to a letter she receives saying, ‘I’ve been watching you’. She tries to dismiss it as harmless, an over-enthusiastic fan, but deep down she finds it unsettling and is freaked out. When Liz receives another, more threatening note, she is reluctant to go to the police as she is worried that the secrets of her past will be revealed and her new-found stability and respectability will crumble.

Initially there are no leads, and DS Claire Boyle is unsure how she can protect Liz. But when she and Flynn start to look into James Mannion’s life, things take a sinister turn. The murders create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion at the centre, as the clients worry about who they can trust.

I really liked the premise of this novel. Something menacing happens to someone who has secrets which she wants to keep hidden. There is conflict and jeopardy galore in the set-up.

Crowley introduced DS Boyle in Can Anybody Help Me? In Are You Watching Me? Boyle has just returned to work off maternity leave, and after two weeks doing nothing but filing, she is gagging to get stuck into an investigation alongside work partner Philip Flynn. I warmed to DS Boyle. She is a bit hard at times, but is juggling motherhood, a career, a home life and a husband, and there is some subtle and valid social commentary here on the challenges of working mothers.

Crowley provides chapters written from the viewpoint of the stalker come letter writer. These are fascinating as we learn what motivates him/her, what he/she’s thinking and what has gone on in his/her past. She intersperses these sections with chapters which focus on Liz and those which deal with the investigation. Crowley also uses Irish dialect in dialogue and, although this can back-fire, I thought it worked really well in this novel. It made for authentic exchanges and interactions, and gave the narrative a lively character.

The stalker element introduces menace and the themes of obsession and fear. There are plenty of plot twists as DS Boyle and her partner solve the crimes. Overall, this was an enjoyable read, not too violent and with a contemporary, believable plot.

Thanks to the publisher and author for my review copy via NetGalley.

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Vicky Newham © 2015

Author: Vicky Newham

Vicky Newham is a writer, living in Whitstable, Kent. She writes crime fiction, psychological thrillers and science fiction. Her main projects are novels, but she also writes short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction articles and some poetry.

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