The Watcher by Charlotte Link

imageSince I finished my latest novel and sent it in to the publisher, I’ve been on a thriller-suspense reading binge. Most of the authors have been recommended to me by my “fans of Nicci French” Facebook group, but I can’t always find their novels at the library, so I’ve taken a few chances, too. Some have paid off; others, not.

A book cover that shows a solitary figure walking through a wintry forest has some appeal when you’re sweltering through the hot, humid days of early summer in Sydney. So does “16 million books sold”. Charlotte Link’s The Watcher must have something going for it, right?

Maybe it’s the translation from the German; maybe it’s the time-lag between when it was written and when it became available in English; maybe it’s the fact that a German writer has chosen an English setting for her story; whatever it is, Link’s book struck me as a little old-fashioned. And it never really grabbed me. There are dead women. There are women in danger. There are strangely fixated men and men with shady pasts. There are issues: domestic violence, marital discord, loneliness, isolation, paedophilia. The novel examines the question of envy in a way that I should have found more interesting.

Maybe I’ve just been spoilt by having read a few really engaging and structurally more challenging books lately.

The Watcher is absorbing enough for me to have read over a couple of days, but I have a sense it won’t stay in my imagination for long.


Author: Charlotte Link
Title: The Watcher
Publisher: Orion/Hachette
Date: 2013

I borrowed a copy from the library.

The Old School by P M Newton

The Old School by P M Newton is outstanding in so many ways…

The language – I kept having to stop and write down one-liners, so superb is Newton’s command of prose.

The setting – a careful rendering of Sydney unlike any I’ve read. It’s refreshing to read a book of the city one has grown up in, so finely evoked in its sense of place, weather, character and idiom. Newton mentions many things I can identify with, from the man made of tyres along Sydney Road as one drives down to Manly (long gone, probably), to the waterfront of Greenwich Point with its oil terminal – as well as places I’m not so intimately familiar with, like the multicultural suburbs of the south-west.

The characters: I found the detective protagonist’s personal life absorbing, her mixed Irish-Vietnamese background disconcerting (brave of Newton to portray this cross-cultural perspective), and her relationships with others complex, nuanced and believable.

Plot: who cares, when you have all these other things so well drawn? But the plot was fascinating. It managed to weave in so many aspects of Sydney life, cultural, historical, political and personal.

Pace: this was a page-turner, but not a fast read. I was absorbed and found myself staying up late (and once waking up at 3am and reaching for the book). At the end, I wanted to finish – because in some ways I found the topic exhausting and confronting, but at the same time I didn’t want my journey with the characters to end.

Don’t just take my word for it. The Old School has attracted well-deserved rave reviews, including a couple by participants in the #AWW2012 Reading & Reviewing Challenge: Yvonne Perkins and Walter Masson.

The Old School won the Sisters in Crime Reader’s Choice Davitt Award and the Asher Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the Indie Award for Debut Fiction and the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction.

Creative Commons License

P M Newton The Old School (review) by Elizabeth Lhuede is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

(This short review first appeared in Goodreads; it fulfilled part of my AWW challenge and is Book 4 of my Aussie Author 2102 challenge)

  • Goodreads

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