Watching You by Michael Robotham

robotham watching youBefore picking up a copy of Watching You with a stack of other books at the library before Christmas, the only story I’d read by Michael Robotham was Bombproof. I remember having enjoyed Bombproof as a fast-paced, witty thriller, and I have intended to read more of Robotham’s work ever since.

It’s a measure of Robotham’s skill as a storyteller that I didn’t immediately pick this story as part of a series. As it turns out it’s Book 7 in the Joe O’Loughlin series. Joe is a clinical psychologist who has a history and faces health challenges, but the story doesn’t really belong to him. It belongs to one of his patients, Marnie, a woman with a traumatic childhood and a missing husband.

Marnie’s husband Daniel wasn’t the best of husbands. An Aussie journalist living in London and a victim of newspaper downsizing, he took up gambling and disappeared leaving a trail of debts. Nevertheless, Marnie refuses to believe he abandoned her. With no joy from the police investigation and growing evidence Daniel was hiding something from her, now she is being hounded by his creditors. Unable to access his bank accounts or life insurance money, she is forced into desperate acts to pay his debts and keep from being evicted from their home. She is also desperate for help for their sick child, four-year-old Elijah.

Marnie’s behaviour doesn’t impress Zoe, her teenaged daughter from her first marriage. Troubled and resentful of her mum, Zoe misses her step-dad; she can’t understand why their TV has been hocked, and why her mother is suddenly dressing up at night and being met by a chauffeur who takes her out. Zoe seeks solace online and, unknown to her mother, sets up  a Facebook page dedicated to trying to find her missing father. That isn’t the only thing she hides from Marnie.

To the world, Marnie is the epitome of the battler struggling against immense odds. To cope, she seeks help from her clinical psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin, but she isn’t entirely truthful to Joe. She doesn’t tell him, for example, that she has had mental health problems before. Nor does she mention that people who cross her have a habit of ended up being harmed. She does hint, however, that she has a feeling she is being watched.

Watching You is an interesting page-turner from a series which features some apparently already well-loved characters. It also reads well as a stand-alone novel. There were times when I felt I was reading more to assess Robotham’s skill as a storyteller, rather than being engaged in the story, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I’m looking forward to reading Robotham’s latest novel, Life or Death, which I’ve heard great things about.


So that I don’t entirely lose my focus on supporting books by Australian women this year, I’d like, when I can, to recommend books by Australian women similar to the ones I’m reviewing. My pick of a match for Michael Robotham – based on a very small sample of his work – is Jaye Ford. Ford writes fast-paced action thrillers with a psychological edge. But maybe readers who are more familiar with his work will other ideas?


Author: Michael Robotham
Title: Watching You
Publisher: Sphere/Hachette
Year: 2013

I borrowed a copy from the library.


This review is the second book I’ll count towards the 2015 Aussie Author challenge.

Lying for a living and Kirsten Tranter’s The Legacy

According to Dr David Craig, everyone lies. All the time. Whether it’s a small white lie to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings, or something more serious, none of us are blameless. Often we lie several times an hour when we’re in company. And apparently we’re all a lot better at lying and fooling others than knowing when we’re being lied to.

This morning Dr Craig was interviewed by Richard Aedy on Life Matters about his book Lie Catcher – become a human lie detector in under 60 minutes. I haven’t yet read the book and I don’t know that I will, but it did get me thinking.

According to Craig, there are lots of “tells” when we lie. Physiological reactions including everything from quickened breath and increased heart rate to trembling hands. Then the cover-up actions that try to disguise our instinctive responses. The “micro expressions” featuring on the TV program Lie To Me are real. But they are over within 1/25 of a second, so you have to be quick to catch them. Even so, if lie detecting is so easy that we can learn it in under 60 minutes, how come we’re all not a whole lot better at knowing when we’re being lied to?

My suspicion is that there might be an evolutionary advantage to our poor ability to detect lies, something to do with the need to fit in with the group, easing communication and preventing friction. We keep up the illusion of civilisation by believing what we want to believe. But there’s a cost, obviously, attached to our gullibility. The potential to get ripped off by a real estate agent or car salesman. Or, more seriously, making a mistake when sleeping with someone or choosing a life partner. Not recognising the signs of someone in distress before it’s too late, preferring to believe that everything’s okay…

Then there’s another kind of liar, one whose lies I’m always desperate to believe.

Over the weekend, I attended a workshop at the NSW Writers Centre with Kristen Tranter, author of the novel, The Legacy (which I’m three-quartes the way through and don’t want to end). The novel is about friendship, lies, half-truths and self-deception. It’s a mystery, of sorts, psychological suspense. The first-person narrator is a young Australian woman who travels to New York in the aftermath of 9/11: Julia Aspers – Ju-LIAR, perhaps, because she’s definitely untrustworthy. But while Julia is untrustworthy, she’s totally believable as a character. With Julia, Tranter captures a truth that I don’t often get to appreciate in the news. It’s an emotional truth, a sense that this is how human beings are with themselves and one another – complex and flawed; lonely, lusting and confused.

I lie. You lie. Fiction writers lie for a living. But only in the best fiction do I forget I’m suspending my disbelief.

For a much more erudite take on the truth and fiction, see this recent NY Times articleby William Egginton.

  • Goodreads

  • Country Secrets – anthology

  • Snowy River Man – rural romance

  • By Her Side – romantic suspense

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