High on a hill in Bristol, England there is a street of colourful houses. The neighbourhood is called Melville Heights. It is here, in this affluent, innocuous location, that a brutal murder took place…
We meet some of the people who live there…
Tom Fitzwilliam – a ‘super’ head teacher who has made a reputation for himself turning around schools who have fallen below expectations. Charismatic, Tom is in his early fifties and is married with one son, Freddie. Tom is watching Freddie.
Nicola Fitzwilliam – Tom’s wife. Much younger than her husband, Nicola seems besotted with him and does everything to please him – often to the detriment of her relationship with her son. Nicola is watching Tom.
Freddie Fitzwilliam – Fifteen years old, fiercely intelligent, and friendless, Freddie lives at the top of the house. It is here that he uses his digital binoculars to ‘watch’ everyone. He keeps a journal he calls the Melville Papers. Nothing escapes his notice. Freddie watches everyone.
Joey (Josephine) Mullen – is a twenty-seven year old newlywed who married in haste and is now questioning her decision. She is very fond of her handsome husband, Alfie, but she treats him like a puppy – and doesn’t want to break his heart…. She and Alfie live with her brother Jack and his pregnant wife, Rebecca . Joey works at a children’s daycare centre and is lusting after her attractive neighbour, Tom Fitzwilliam. Joey is watching Tom.
Jenna Tripp – a schoolgirl who attends the school where Tom Fitzwilliam is the head. She lives with her mentally ill mother, Frances who is paranoid and thinks she is being ‘gang-stalked’ and spied upon. Jenna is watching her mother – and her best friend Bess.
Bess Ridley – Jenna’s best friend also lives alone with her mother. She has a schoolgirl crush on the new head teacher. Bess is watching Tom.
You have to admire this author who can create a myriad of characters, keep them all distinct, and create a convoluted scenario that works magnificently.
The teenagers are the stars in this novel. Freddie and Jenna were my favourite characters. Freddie, with his first crush (with which his brilliance cannot help him) and Jenna with her struggles to maintain a normal life living with her paranoid mother. I even became fond of Joey, despite her poor life choices.
As a naive adult, I was astonished at how much the teens used ‘Snapchat’ to communicate and to track each other with ‘Snap Map’. It was an eye-opener.
This novel has many themes in addition to it being a crime thriller. It tells of conflicted teenagers in the age of advanced social media. It explores people who feel ‘trapped’ by their choice of marriage partners. It gives credence to the idea of ‘grooming’ adolescents by adults in positions of authority.
I liked the way the story was told via flashbacks which were interspersed with police interviews following a brutal murder.
This is Lisa Jewell’s sixteenth novel and she has honed her craft to such an extent that she is now one of my automatic buy/read authors. I need not even read the blurb, I’m sure to enjoy her work. Highly recommended!
Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968.
She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.
She has since written a further ten novels, as is currently at work on her twelfth.
She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.
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