Review Blog

Sep 11 2013

The watcher in the shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Text, 2013. ISBN 9781921922527
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Thriller. Automaton. Widow Simone takes work at a rambling mansion at Blue Bay near Mont-St-Michel in northern France. She has recently lost her husband so work as a housekeeper to Lazarus Jann, a retired and reclusive toymaker, is fortuitous. Her children, however, in walking to the mansion on their first visit find some of the automatons, in the garden and the house, unsettling. A letter from an unknown person opens the book, and this we find is one of many such letters, written but never sent. So begins a tightly plotted, complex and highly unsettling thriller.
We hear more about Lazarus as Simone's children, Irene and Dorian, become part of his small community, and about his seriously ill wife. While his servant Hannah befriends Irene, she soon finds that Hannah's cousin, the unusual Ismael, more interesting, even though his thoughts are only of the sea.
When Ismael and Irene go to the sea cave, Ismael tells her the tale of the frowned woman, and finding her diary, Irene is enthralled, reading of the shadow which emerged years ago, the spectre forming a backdrop to what then happens. With Hannah found dead, the two have a mystery to solve, but find it is very close to home. Lazarus Jann takes Simone from her bed to his factory where a doppelganger, a replica of Simone is being made.
This is a breathtaking read, full of shadows, with the characters' names adding deeper levels of meaning to an already rich and enthralling tale. The built angel is one of the scariest inventions I have read of, and will amaze the readers just as it did me.
Fran Knight

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