New York Times bestselling author Michael Robotham brings us face-to-face with a manipulative psychopath who has destroyed countless lives and is about to claim one final victim.
Marnie Logan often feels like she's being watched: a warm breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye that vanishes when she turns her head.
She has reason to be frightened. Her husband Daniel has inexplicably vanished, and the police have no leads in the case. Without proof of death or evidence of foul play, she can't access his bank accounts or his life insurance. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin.
O'Loughlin is concerned by Marnie's reluctance to talk about the past and anxious to uncover what Marnie is withholding that could help with her treatment. The breakthrough in Marnie's therapy and Daniel's disappearance arrives when Marnie shares with O'Loughlin her discovery of the Big Red Book, a collage of pictures, interviews, and anecdotes from Marnie's friends and relatives that Daniel had been compiling as part of a surprise birthday gift.
Daniel's explorations into Marnie's past led him to a shocking revelation on the eve of his disappearance: Anyone who has ever gotten close to Marnie has paid an exacting price. A cold-blooded killer is eliminating the people in Marnie's life, and now that O'Laughlin is a part of it, he is next in line.
About the Author
Michael Robotham is author of the New York Times bestseller Say You're Sorry, as well as Bleed for Me, and Shatter, and other novels of suspense. A former investigative journalist who has worked in Britain, Australia and the US, Robotham is one of the world's most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.
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By Michael Robotham
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2014 Michael Robotham
All rights reserved.
When Marnie Logan was fourteen she dreamed of marrying Johnny Depp or Jason Priestley and living happily ever after in a house with a Gone-with-the-Wind staircase and a double-fridge full of Mars Bars. When she was twenty-five she wanted a house with a small mortgage and a big garden. Now she'd take a flat on the ground floor with decent plumbing and no mice.
Pausing on the landing, she swaps two plastic bags of groceries between her hands, flexing her fingers before continuing the climb. Elijah is ahead of her, counting each step.
"I can count to a hundred," he tells her, putting on his serious face.
"What about a hundred and one?"
"That's too many."
Elijah knows how many steps there are from the lobby to the top floor of the mansion block (seventy-nine) and how long it takes for the electronic timer to flick off, plunging the stairwell into darkness (sixty-four) unless you run really fast; and how to unlock the front door using two different keys, the gold one at the top and the big silver one at the bottom.
He pushes open the door and runs down the hallway to the kitchen, calling Zoe's name. She doesn't answer because she's not at home. She'll be at the library or at a friend's house, hopefully doing her homework, more likely not.
Marnie notices an envelope on the doormat. No stamp or address. It's from her landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Brummer, who live downstairs on the second floor and who own four other flats in Maida Vale. This makes them rich, but Mrs. Brummer still collects coupons and holds up the queue at the supermarket by counting out coppers that she keeps in little reusable plastic bags.
Marnie puts the letter in a drawer with the other final demands and warnings. Then she unpacks the groceries, the cold items first, restocking the fridge. Elijah taps his finger on the fishbowl where a lone goldfish, stirred from indolence, circumnavigates his universe and comes to rest. Then he runs to the front room.
"Where's the TV, Mummy?"
"It's broken. I'm getting it fixed."
"I'm going to miss Thomas."
"We'll read a book instead."
Marnie wonders when she learned to lie so easily. There is a gap in the corner of the room where the TV used to be. Cash Converters gave her ninety pounds, which paid for the groceries and the electricity bill, but not much more. After unpacking the bags, she mops the floor where the freezer has leaked. A mechanical beep tells her to close the door.
"The fridge is open," yells Elijah, who is playing in her wardrobe.
"I got it," she replies.
After wiping the speckled gray bench tops, she sits down and takes off her sandals, rubbing her feet. What's she going to do about the rent? She can't afford the flat, but she can't afford anywhere else. She is two months behind. Ever since Daniel disappeared she's been living off their limited savings and borrowing money from friends, but after thirteen months the money and favors have been exhausted. Mr. Brummer doesn't wink at her any more or call her "sweetie." Instead he drops around every Friday, walking through the flat, demanding that she pay what's owed or vacate the premises.
Marnie goes through her purse, counting the notes and coins. She has thirty- eight pounds and change—not enough to pay the gas bill. Zoe needs extra phone credit and new school shoes. She also has an excursion to the British Museum next week.
There are more bills—Marnie keeps a list—but none of them compare to the thirty thousand pounds she owes a man called Patrick Hennessy, an Ulsterman with malice in every lilt and cadence of his accent. It was Daniel's debt. The money he lost before he went missing. The money he gambled away. According to Hennessy, this debt didn't disappear when Daniel vanished. And no amount of crying poor or begging or threatening to tell the police will wipe it out. Instead the debt is handed down like a genetic trait through a person's DNA. Blue eyes, dimples, fat thighs, thirty thousand pounds: from father to son, from husband to wife ... In Marnie's worst dreams, the Ulsterman is a distant light, hurtling toward her down a long narrow tunnel, miles away, but getting closer. She can feel the rumbling beneath her feet and the air pressure changing, unable to move, locked in place.
Hennessy visited her two weeks ago, demanding to see Daniel, accusing Marnie of hiding him. Forcing his foot in Marnie's door, he explained the economics of his business, while his eyes studied the curves of her body.
"It's a basic human trait, the desire to live in the past," he told her, "to spend a few harmless hours pretending that everything will be as it used to be, but the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny aren't real, Marnella, and it's time for big girls to grow up and take responsibility."
Hennessy produced a contract signed by Daniel. It named Marnie as being equally liable for his debts. She pleaded ignorance. She tried to argue. But the Ulsterman only saw things in black and white—the black being the signature and the white being a sheet covering Marnie's body if she failed to pay.
"From now on you work for me," he announced, pinning her neck against the wall with his outspread fingers. She could see a stray piece of food caught between his teeth. "I have an agency in Bayswater. You'll go on their books. Half of what you earn will come to me."
"What do you mean, an agency?" croaked Marnie.
Hennessy seemed to find her naïvete amusing. "Keep that up. It'll play well with the punters."
Marnie understood. She shook her head. Hennessy raised his other hand and used his thumb to press against her neck below her earlobe right behind her jawbone, finding the nerve.
"It's called the mandibular angle," he explained as the blinding pain detonated down Marnie's right side, making her vision blur and her bowels slacken. "It's a pressure point discovered by a martial arts professor. The police use it to control people. Doesn't even leave a bruise."
Marnie couldn't focus on his words. The hurt robbed her of any other sense. Finally, he released her. "I'll send someone to pick you up tomorrow. Get some photos taken. How does that sound?" He forced her head up and down. "And don't even think of going to the police. I know the name of the nursing home where you keep your father and where your children go to school."
Pushing the memory aside, Marnie fills the kettle and opens the fridge, removing a Tupperware container of gluten-free Bolognese, which is pretty much all Elijah eats these days. He's happy. He doesn't cry. He smiles all the time. He just won't put on any weight. "Failure to thrive," is what the doctors call it; or more technically he has celiac disease. If he doesn't eat he can't grow and if he doesn't grow ...
"I have to go out tonight," she tells him. "Zoe will look after you."
"Where is she?"
"She'll be home soon."
Her daughter is fifteen. Independent. Strong-willed. Beautiful. Rebellious. Hurt. Adolescence and hormones are difficult enough without tragedy. All children destroy their own childhoods by wanting to grow up too quickly.
Tonight Marnie will make five hundred pounds. Hennessy will take half the money. The rest will pay the bills and be gone by tomorrow afternoon. Her cash doesn't circulate so much as spiral down the drain.
Standing at the sink, she looks down at the garden below, which has a paddling pond and a broken set of swings. A gust of wind rocks the branches, sending leaves into a spin. She doesn't know most of her neighbors in the mansion block. That's what happens when you live on top of people and beside them and opposite them, but never with them, not together. She might never meet the person on the other side of the plastered wall, but she will hear their vacuum cleaners knocking against the skirting boards and their petty arguments and favorite TV shows and bedheads bashing against the common wall. Why does sex sound like someone doing DIY?
On the far side of the garden, beyond the laneway and the lock-up garages, there is another garden and an identical mansion block. Mr. Badger lives on the fifth floor. Elijah gave him the name because his gray streak of hair reminded him of Badger in Wind in the Willows. Marnie came up with another name after seeing Mr. Badger standing naked at his kitchen window with his eyes half-closed and his hand moving frantically up and down.
A few days ago somebody passed away in the mansion block next door. Marnie had been looking out the window when she saw the ambulance pull up and collect the body. According to Mrs. Brummer, who knows everybody in Maida Vale, it was an old woman who'd been sick for a long time. Shouldn't I have known her, wondered Marnie? Did she die alone like one of those forgotten old people whose partially decomposed bodies are found months afterwards when a neighbor finally complains about the smell?
When Elijah was born Daniel put a baby monitor near his cot and they discovered almost immediately how many other parents in the neighborhood had bought the identical monitor broadcasting on the same channel. They heard lullabies and music boxes and mothers breastfeeding and fathers falling asleep in their baby's room. Marnie felt as though she was spying on complete strangers, yet oddly in touch and connected with these people who were unknowingly sharing their experiences.
Elijah has stopped eating. Marnie tries to coax another mouthful, but his lips tighten into a single line. She lifts him down from his booster seat and he follows her into the bedroom, where he watches her getting ready. He holds her lingerie up to the light with his hand under the fabric.
"You can see right through it," he says.
"You're supposed to be able to."
"You just are."
"Can I zip up your dress?"
"This dress doesn't have a zip."
"You look very pretty, Mummy."
"Why thank you."
She looks in the mirror and turns sideways, sucking in her stomach, holding her breath, causing her breasts to stick out.
Not bad. Nothing has started to sag or wrinkle. I've put on a little weight, but that's OK, too.
On other days she will look at the same reflection and hate the harshness of the lighting or find faults where she could be kinder.
Along the hallway she hears the front door open and close. Zoe dumps her schoolbag in the corner of her bedroom and kicks off her shoes. She goes to the kitchen where she opens the fridge and drinks milk straight from the container. Wiping her mouth, she pads barefoot to the living room. Shouting.
"Where is the fucking TV?"
"Mind your language," says Marnie.
"It's broken," says Elijah.
Zoe is still shouting. "It's not broken, is it?"
"We can do without a TV for a few weeks."
"When the insurance money comes in we'll get a new one, I promise. A big flat- screen TV with cable and all the movie channels."
"It's always about the insurance money. We're not going to get the insurance."
Marnie emerges from the bedroom, holding her shoes. Zoe is still staring at the empty corner where the TV once sat. Her blond curls are flying loose, as though twisting toward the light.
"You can't be serious."
"I'm sorry," says Marnie, trying to give her daughter a hug.
Zoe shrugs her away. "No you're not. You're useless!"
"Don't talk to me like that."
"We don't have a computer. We don't have the Internet. And now we don't have a fucking TV!"
"Please don't swear."
"I said I was sorry."
Zoe spins away in disgust and slams her bedroom door. Elijah has gone quiet. He coughs and his whole body shakes. His chest has been jumping all day. Marnie feels his forehead. "Is your throat sore?"
"Tell Zoe to take your temperature."
"Can I stay up?"
"How long will you be?"
"Will I be awake when you get home?"
"I hope not."
The doorbell rings. Marnie presses the intercom button. A small screen lights up. Quinn is standing on the front steps.
"I'm on my way," she tells him, grabbing her purse and keys. She knocks on Zoe's door and presses her face near the painted wood.
"I'm going now. Dinner is on the stove."
She waits. The door opens. Zoe is wearing shorts and a singlet-top. One ear-bud is wedged in her ear, the other dangles. They hug. It lasts a beat longer than usual. An apology.
Elijah pushes past Marnie and launches himself into his sister's arms. Picking him up easily, Zoe settles him on her hip and blows a raspberry into his neck. She carries him to the living room and looks out the large bay window overlooking the street.
"You must be the only waitress in London who gets picked up in a fancy car."
"It's a bar, not a restaurant," says Marnie.
"With a chauffeur?"
"He works on the door."
"I guess you could call him that."
Marnie checks the contents of her bag. Mobile phone. Lipstick. Eyeliner. Mace. Keys. Emergency numbers. Condoms.
"Take Elijah's temperature and give him Calpol if he has a fever. And make sure he does a wee before you put him to bed."
Walking down the stairs, she hoists her dress higher on her hips to make it easier. As she reaches the foyer, she tugs it down again. A door opens. Trevor peers from inside his flat and opens the door wider.
In his early thirties, Trevor has a skinny chest and widening waist, freckles across his nose and cheeks. Headphones are hooked over his neck and the cord dangles between his knees.
Marnie glances at the exterior door. Quinn doesn't like to be kept waiting.
"I've bought some new music," Trevor says. "Would you like to hear it?"
"I don't have time right now."
Marnie is at the door. "Maybe."
"Have a good night," he shouts.
She feels guilty. Trevor is always asking her to listen to his music or watch a DVD. She sometimes borrows his computer to send emails or look up information, but doesn't linger. Trevor is the caretaker who looks after the gardens and general maintenance. He's also what Daniel used to call "a drainer": someone who sucks the energy from a room. Other people are "heaters" because they give warmth and make you feel energized and happy around them.
Quinn crushes a cigarette beneath a polished black brogue. He doesn't open the door for Marnie. Instead he slips behind the steering wheel and guns the engine. Sullen. Silent. Marnie's stomach rumbles emptily. The booker at the agency told her not to eat before working because it would make her feel bloated.
Reaching Harrow Road, Quinn weaves aggressively through the traffic.
"I told you seven o'clock sharp."
"Elijah has a cold."
"Not my problem."
Marnie knows three things about Quinn. He has a Geordie accent, he keeps a tire- iron in the door pocket next to his seat, and he works for Patrick Hennessy. This is only Marnie's third night. Each time she has felt her stomach churning and her palms grow damp.
"Is he a regular?"
"Has he been vetted?"
Marnie's best friend Penny had told her to ask questions like this. Penny had experience. After university, she worked as an escort in between modelling assignments because the latter couldn't cover her credit card bills or fund her taste in designer clothes. Marnie was shocked at the time. She asked Penny what the difference was between being an escort and a prostitute.
"About four hundred pounds an hour," Penny replied, making it sound so obvious.
Marnie pulls down the sun visor and checks her make-up in the mirror. Is this my life now, she wonders? Opening my legs for money. Making small talk with rich businessmen, pretending to be dazzled by their charm and wit. Paying back Patrick Hennessy one trick at a time. It's not what she expected or imagined, not when she was Zoe's age, or when she married Daniel, or when she lost him so suddenly. When she was seventeen she was going to be a journalist, writing feature stories for Tatler or Vogue. She settled for a job in advertizing and was a junior copywriter. Loved it. Fell pregnant. Left.
Not in her worst nightmares did she imagine working for an escort agency. And no matter how often she told herself that it wasn't for ever, just a few more weeks, just until she gets the insurance money, it didn't stop the butterflies doing power dives in her stomach.
Only two people knew—Penny and Professor O'Loughlin, the psychologist that Marnie has been seeing. The rest of her friends and family think she has a new job, working as a part-time manager at an upmarket restaurant. And when these same friends drag out clichéd analogies of "whoring themselves" in their corporate jobs, Marnie just nods and commiserates and thinks, "you wankers."
Excerpted from Watching You by Michael Robotham. Copyright © 2014 Michael Robotham. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’m not exactly sure how to describe WATCHING YOU by Michael Robotham because for me, it was several books in one. Part procedural, part psychological thriller, part noir, and all engrossing, readable wonderfulness. This is the seventh entry in Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin series. Joe is a shrink (or clinical psychologist, if you prefer) who has a fascinating back-story. Among other things—and there are many other things—he has Parkinson’s disease, which doesn’t have a direct impact on the plot of his stories, but Robotham handles this aspect of Joe with such grace and honesty that it makes him all the more fascinating. WATCHING YOU opens with Marnie Logan, a young mom, feeling like she’s being—logically enough, given the book’s title—watched. Marnie’s in a tough spot because her husband has disappeared without a trace, and she’s trying to hold her life together, with Joe’s help. Joe is possessed of a deep and abiding sense of curiosity and desire to help people who need it, and when applied to Marnie, these lead to some dark places indeed. Who is watching Marnie—if anyone is at all—and why is at the core of the story, but this is much more than a traditional whodunit. I’m always a fan of great sidekicks, and Joe’s is one of the best in modern literature. Vincent Ruiz is a former cop who is as tough as he needs to be to survive on London’s mean streets. This isn’t a guy you’d want to cross, and one you would entrust to protect those most dear to you in a heartbeat. Michael Robotham has an extraordinary eye for detail, and the skill to use it to color his prose without ever for a moment being overwhelming or weighty. As I was reading WATCHING YOU, I kept thinking, “oh, so it’s about X,” but as soon as I pinned down an X, it became about Y. That sounds like it might be a bit dizzying, but it’s not a bit. I read a lot of crime fiction, and as such, I’m not easily surprised. That’s fine—I don’t need to be in order to enjoy a book—but WATCHING YOU caught me completely unawares repeatedly. Robotham is a supremely skilled and confident storyteller, and WATCHING YOU is a joy to read.
It's no secret that I love mystery and thriller novels. When asked for recommendations at the library, Michael Robotham is an author I often suggest. This Aussie author is one you definitely want to put on your must read list. His latest North American release is Watching You - and it'll have you sitting up late reading just one more chapter - and drawing the curtains. This is the seventh book featuring recurring character Joe O'Loughlin - a clinical psychologist. Marnie Logan is struggling - her husband has disappeared, she has inherited his massive gambling debts and has two children to look after. She's at her wit's end, but things are about to get even worse. "I am the most important figure in Marnie's life, but she doesn't know it yet. I am the half-figure at the edge of her photographs and the shadow in the corner of her eye that vanishes each time she turns her head. I am the ghost that dances behind her closed lids and the darkness that blinks when she blinks. I am her nameless champion, her unheralded hero, and the conductor of her symphony. I am the one who watches." Creepy, creepy, creepy. I started out feeling sorry for Marnie, then frightened for her, then...... well, Robotham is a master manipulator. Just when I thought I had the story figured out, he surprised me. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book he says..."Each time I finish a novel I think, that's it - I'm all out of ideas, characters, plot twists and one-liners." Sometimes I think along the same lines - that I've read so many thrillers, that I'll be able to figure things out long before the last page. Definitely, not the case with Watching You. The plotting was deliciously clever, was completely unpredictable and turned ever assumption I had made upside down. The ending is a nice little gotcha too. Robotham also brings back retired police Detective Vincent Ruiz. He and O'Louglin are a favourite duo, each bringing a different outlook on the crimes and criminals they pursue. The story is told from many narratives, each giving a different look at what is going on. But the most chilling is that of the watcher. What could be more frightening than someone watching you - and you're unaware of it? Robotham takes this frightening premise to a whole new level. And kinda makes you wonder who's watching you - that person on the bus, the car at the stoplight....? Watching You is a five star absolutely recommended read for thriller fans. If you read Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben, you'll like Robotham.
So many unexpected twist and turns making it impossible to put this book down. You will never guess what it has in store! You won't regret buying this book!
This book started out slow & I almost didn't go on... I AM SO HAPPY I did keep reading Great book.
This book is a true work of art. The words flow past in a natural rush, as I find all good novels do. The story is brilliantly layered. The way this guy writes he could make the history of dirt sound exciting.
Only one problem with this book--I had trouble stopping; I found myself reading long into the night
Loved this book from start to finish.
I read them all. Fantastic series. I would highly recommend.
Just could not put it down.