Psychological thriller Watching Edie by Camilla Way was published on 28 July by HarperCollins and I’m delighted to be a part of the novel’s celebratory Blog Tour. Below you’ll find a review and, to give you a tantalising taste, an extract from a key part of the novel’s earlier stages. For other stops on the tour, take a look at the poster at the bottom of the post.
Heather and Edie were best friends at school. Everyone was drawn to Edie. She was beautiful, popular, with a brilliant future ahead of her. Heather, on the other hand, faded into the background but Edie was drawn to her nevertheless and the two of them were almost inseparable. The time for boyfriends had to come, of course, and Edie was the one boys wanted. When Edie began a relationship with Connor, Heather continued to tag along, bearing the insults and teasing. She felt so alive when she was with Edie. She never wanted her out of her sight.
Years later, aged 33, Edie lives alone in a small flat, her promise unfilled, pregnant. Something has happened in the past that has driven her from her family, isolated her from her friends. Only one thing could make her situation worse and one day that something happens – Heather turns up.
There are plenty of psychological novels around these days but Watching Edie is one of the most disturbing that I’ve read. Alternating between the first person narrative of Heather set in the present day and Heather’s account of the past, the two perspectives slowly merge, the past catching up with the present, just as Heather has finally caught up with Edie. As readers, we’re desperate to know the nature of the terrible event that is hinted at but before that we must deal with the worry and anxiety of Edie’s situation as she comes to terms with imminent and isolated motherhood, feelings intensified by the arrival of Heather.
Camilla Way skilfully manipulates the reader’s sympathies, using the opinions of other characters in the novel to reinforce our own. It’s done very well and means that the twists and shocks are all the more disturbing. While I wished that I could care more for Edie and Heather, I nevertheless admired the novel greatly for its building of tension and its portrait of tragedy. It has such a good premise and its depiction of the relationship between Edie and Heather is brilliantly done as well as being extremely sensitive. There are moments here when everything is stripped away and only the raw emotion remains. As a result, Watching Edie is one of the more harrowing and memorable psychological thrillers I’ve read this year.
In the weeks following Heather’s visit she phones me repeatedly, sometimes several times a day. I never answer. Instead I watch as my mobile vibrates and buzzes, the unfamiliar number flashing on the screen, my stomach twisting queasily. Sometimes she leaves a message, but I delete them all unlistened to. It’s six weeks before the calls stop abruptly one day. Life begins to return to normal, the water closing over the disturbance that she’d made, my pregnancy taking over my thoughts once more, leaving no room for anything else, not even her.
But out of the blue like a carefully aimed dart, she pierces my life again. A few days after the woman and her two lads move in downstairs, I spot the postman approaching from my window and go down to collect my mail, expecting an appointment letter from the hospital. As I pass the new tenants’ ground-floor flat I hear the sound of bolts being drawn and keys turning in their locks before the door opens a crack, stopped by a heavy thick chain. Someone peers out at me through the slim black gap as I pass. For a few seconds I feel myself being watched until finally the door closes again. I hear the locks turn and the bolts shoot home once more.
Amongst the scattered envelopes lies one that’s pink and square. I don’t remember ever seeing Heather’s handwriting before, but I know instinctively that it’s from her. The physical presence of it makes my scalp crawl but I return with it upstairs, carrying it like some dead and rotten thing between my fingertips. There on my kitchen table it sits. I leave it unopened, curling up in a ball on my sofa, my legs tucked beneath me, my arms tight around my bump. The minutes tick by until with quick decisiveness I run into the kitchen, snatch up the envelope and tear it open. Along with a piece of pink notepaper a photograph falls out, landing face down on the floor.
My hands trembling, I pick up the letter and quickly scan the words. Dear Edie, it says.
I’ve tried to phone you loads but I think I’ve got the wrong number. Can I come back and see you? Here’s my number at the top. Please phone me.
Lots of love from Heather Wilcox. XOXO
PS. I found this photo of us! LOL! You can keep it if you want!! X
Eventually, reluctantly, I pick up the picture and look at it. It’s of Heather and me. I’m sitting just in front of her by the quarry and I’m smiling up at the camera, holding my hand out as if to defend myself from its lens, my fingers a big pink blur in the foreground. Heather is looking away, staring off down the hill. I’m shocked at how childish we look, our faces plump and stupid with youth. But the picture’s not of us, not really. Even though he’s the one taking the picture, it’s of Connor. He is in the expression in my eyes and in the shadow that streaks across the grass between Heather and me. Connor. In my flat the walls feel a little closer, the air a little harder to breathe. A wave of nausea hits me and I have to run to the sink to vomit up the bile that floods my mouth.