Title: Somebody’s Watching You
Author: Robin D’Amato
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How far are you willing to go to hold onto someone you love? This is the dilemma Melody Hollenback finds herself facing when her husband, Jeff, becomes embroiled in a cult with questionable motives. Fearing the changes in her husband and wanting to save her marriage, she pretends to embrace the teachings of the group, all while trying to keep out of the clutches of its mysterious, strangely hypnotic, and enigmatic leader.
Right from the start, it was clear that this would not be your run-of-the-mill thriller. In some instances, it also doubled as a dissection of the anatomy of a marriage. Robin D’Amato made a careful study of both the internal and external forces that influence a relationship, using a large cast of characters to underscore the fact that, although it only takes two to tango, there are often people just waiting in line for a turn to shake things up and make life more interesting for a married couple.
The setting started out quite ordinary, with sinister elements being introduced gradually and only becoming obvious three-quarters of the way through the book. The main antagonist of the book, the Church of Philomatist and its ringleader Floyd, could have benefited more from being treated with the same subtlety. There were times when it felt like readers were being fed a steady diet of villainous acts rather than being allowed to conclude just how dangerous this cult was in a more organic manner.
The author used a deconstructed timeline, with a lot of back and forth between past and present, in presenting the whole of the story. Although it might have caused the book to have slight pacing issues, it also provided an interesting juxtaposition between the early days of Melody and Jeff’s relationship and its current state, eerily highlighting just how much has changed between the couple and setting the tone for the events to come.
It is telling that this book began and ended with the couple, as this book is largely character-driven and relies on Melody and Jeff as main characters to do the heavy lifting. Individually, these two were not easy to get behind or root for. Melody, whether by design or by accident, often came across as an unreliable narrator, and it was not always easy or pleasant to view the world, and Jeff, through her lenses. Jeff himself did not always feel like the most developed character, which was perhaps understandable as he had been struggling with mental health issues at the start of the story.
The author perhaps could have made more of an effort to make them more likeable, but there is no denying that these character flaws only make them more interesting to read. There was also an undeniable physical and emotional chemistry between these two that leaped off the pages. Together, they were more than the sum of their parts. The writing was at its best when the spotlight was shone on this couple, and it provided a much-needed anchor to the story that paid off when the book drew to its conclusion.
This unique, quirky take on psychological thrillers subverts what readers have come to expect from this genre, turning something that is well-known and injecting it with a fresh perspective. Readers looking for a little something different will appreciate the effort to craft something new, but there is enough of the familiar and comfortable to also appeal to die-hard fans of the genre.
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