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The Watcher by Charles Maclean

Reviewed by Hannah Piper
Penguin: £7.99

From the onset The Watcher grips you with its disturbing narrative, following the story of an everyday man seemingly losing his grip on reality.

Despite successfully drawing you in, it stumbles about when trying to describe a “horrific” moment – leaving the reader with a sense of absurdity rather than fear.

The protagonist, Martin, is unlikeable at best and irritatingly hopeless at conjuring empathy at worst; whether this was the author’s intention remains unclear – as the story progresses you are certainly left none the wiser.

However in my infinite wisdom I continue to read…

Imagine walking alone through a deep dark wood and you are faced with a sign offering you two routes (the classic scenario); route one clearly states the longer, yet safer route and route two states the short cut, but fraught with trouble – well The Watcher is a mix
of the two, long AND fraught with trouble! In an attempt to be objective, the strong points should probably get a mention. Firstly,

the start of the novel is without doubt, brilliant. The initial gruesome beginnings  genuinely shock with the description giving the reader a glimpse into Martin’s psyche – an all too revealing glimpse. In the first chapter he describes to his wife how he’d like to imagine she was a stranger in the house, with him sneaking in and… well you get the idea… (Martin to his wife) “… ‘I was going to play a nasty little trick on you.’ Very gently I
pressed my thumbs into the softest part of her throat… ” Bear in mind this is only page 17,  a sign for things to come? Alas, no.

Just like a trailer for some trashy thriller that Hollywood churns out on a bi-weekly basis, random scenes of sexual suggestion and violence to draw you in, you pay for a  cinema ticket then BAM! The trailer was in fact the only moments of sex/violence in an otherwise boring film.

All of this only succeeds in perturbing the determined reader, as you know the author is capable of writing in a riveting manner, so the bizarre plot turn which introduces past life regression is simply confusing. Without revealing too much of the plot, all I’ll say is although the constant sense of horror successfully scares you as a reader, it’s significantly softened as the story progresses.

As a horror story fan it is worth a mention that the author does manage to set the scene in quite a few instances for you to get a sense that something terrifying is lurking just

around the next corner and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect, but I do feel the actual plot content lets you down. This is of course all a matter of personal taste, so I would certainly recommend the book as a quick read, the writing style has a flow that allows you to easily continue on through the story – the author is clearly competent at structuring and use of language.

Despite my evident disappointment with the plot conclusion (I must admit I am a very fussy reader), there are definitely enough positives to please (and scare) the everyday  person – so certainly don’t be put off. I’d also say that if psychoanalysis is your forte, then the way Maclean dips and dives through the realms of Martins mind is purely fascinating, although if you don’t concentrate carefully it’s easy to get lost; this is not a book to read before you fall asleep if you are prone to insomnia I might add!

All in all a fairly interesting read, I’ve not read anything like it before so a refreshing change from my obligatory Stephen King novel and despite the plot not really being to my taste, I don’t regret reading it, as Maclean has a very distinctive and confident writing style.

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