Fiction - Thriller - Psychological
104 Pages
Reviewed on 04/17/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Watching by Julie Hodgson is a psychological suspense thriller that follows the protagonist Hazel, as she watches the outside world from her own window. The story weaves back and forth between past events in Hazel's life and the life she finds herself in now, wheelchair-bound and mostly alone with her thoughts, a bit of music that plays like theme songs for certain sequences, the news she waits patiently for between songs to listen to, and a couple whose questionable married life she witnesses from her window. She drifts in and out of reality, haunted by memories of a distant and abusive mother and her married adult life, from which her deceased husband has left her a cryptic note from the afterlife: “Why did you kill me?”

Julie Hodgson has written an excellent piece of fiction with Watching. Hazel, through her memories and vantage point, is a fully developed character and the story itself is almost instantly engrossing. The point of view is Hazel's and as the story progresses the reader begins to observe the unraveling of her psyche as she slips into moments of memory loss that leave her in places and situations of which she has no recollection. This works wonderfully in making Hazel something of an unreliable narrator and she twists and turns in surprising ways that play well into a fast-moving plot. I think this novella will bring a lot of pleasure to readers who have enjoyed the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Dennis Lehan, and Paula Hawkins.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Hazel watches from her window in horror as the mysterious neighbor, Alan, digs a huge hole in his backyard. There is something nefarious about him. She hears his wife screaming frequently and often sees shadows through the curtains of abuse. Or so she believes. She has called the police multiple times to alert them to a possible crime in progress, but, when the police arrive, all appears well. The neighbor and the police are starting to believe that Hazel -- old, feeble, a widow and mostly confined to a wheelchair (she does manage to walk on occasion, but not very far) -- to be a little off. Even her daughter thinks so. But is she? Is she finding notes from her dead husband, in his handwriting, accusing her of killing him? Is she finding his wedding outfit draped over the couch when she hadn’t seen it out of the closet in years? And is her neighbor really an abusive husband, intent on killing his wife? What one sees and believes can ultimately be two completely different things. And one starts to wonder if Hazel really is as innocent as she first appears.

Julie Hodgson’s thriller, Watching, is a cleverly twisted plot, well constructed with many plausible developments. Each new tangent is presented with a mixture of intrigue and unexpected anomalies, leading the reader one way and then another. The main character, Hazel, realizes she’s losing her mind. She’s old. She’s had a difficult life, beginning with an abusive mother who often beat her to within an inch of her life. The author provides these sordid details with detailed flashbacks as Hazel grapples with the abuse she believes she’s witnessing at her neighbors. The characters are well developed, each one just as evil as the other, but in different ways. The descriptive narrative leads the reader to a darkened place in the protagonist’s mind where things aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Watching by Julie Hodgson is a powerful mystery turned thriller and a real page-turner.

Michelle Stanley

Watching is a young adult thriller by Julie Hodgson. Seventy-two-year-old Hazel spends most of her days at home, sitting by the front window, reminiscing about the past or watching the neighborhood activities. She suspects her neighbor, Alan, is abusing his wife, Carol, but no-one believes her. Seeing Alan digging in his garden arouses Hazel’s suspicions. When Alan asks her about the flower seeds she promised him, Hazel begins to doubt her sanity. She then finds a note from Sam, her deceased husband, accusing her of murder, evoking her memories of the past Her dislike for the neighbors makes Hazel do a bit of sleuthing to prove she isn’t losing her mind. But breaking into Alan’s house to get the proof needed gives her an element of surprise she was unprepared for.

“Watching you watching me” is a quote that comes to mind while reading this novella. Hazel is a snoopy old lady who has a sharp tongue. She is also fearless and determined to do something once she sets her mind to it. Alan can be quite charming. There are parts that take you into Hazel’s past, then it switches to the present. This sequence is vital to the story, and Julie Hodgson intertwined them nicely with a couple of twists I just could not believe. The conclusion took me off guard a bit, but I loved it. Watching by Julie Hodgson is a fast-paced young adult thriller that will ease the boredom. The book is a quick read and is recommended.