Deathwatch by Nicola Morgan

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Deathwatch by Nicola Morgan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Creepy and contemporary thriller raising the thorny issues of stalking, internet privacy, and post-traumatic stress. It's exceedingly well done, and completely in tune with its readers. Top notch stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? {{{borrow}}}
Pages: 288 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 1406315036

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Cat McPherson is a talented athlete. She's winning competitions left right and centre, and she's a hot tip for a future Olympic medal. She's also just fourteen, and understandably she wants to spend time hanging out with her friends. She's building up the courage to approach her parents about cutting back on training, when events rather get in the way.

For Cat has a stalker. Is it her ex-boyfriend or the retired scientist who both have an obsessive interest in insects? Or is it the young schizophrenic boy? How long will it take Cat to even notice that someone has an unhealthy interest in her? Will she realise how careless she is about giving away personal details on the web? By the time she does, will it all be too late?

It's genuinely creepy, this book. I dislike insects as much as Cat does, so when a spider jumped out of a bouquet of flowers and ran across her shoulder, I spent the next hour shuddering and dusting myself down. There are a number of scenes every reader will recognise - walking home in the dark or the rain, and worrying about footsteps behind you, or the hooded figure coming your way. We also get to sit behind the eyes of Cat's stalker, and that is exceedingly uncomfortable.

It's also very contemporary, buying into issues familiar to all teens - stalking, internet privacy, and parental pressure. Cat spends a lot of time on Phiz - it's a bit like Facebook - and learns some painful lessons there about giving away too much about yourself to people you don't know at all. Less familiar to readers perhaps, but equally contemporary, is the illuminating treatment Morgan gives to post-traumatic stress.

It's a successful thriller too - there are a host of suspects, all fully-fleshed characters, and red herrings aplenty. Of course, I didn't work out the identity of Cat's stalker until about three sentences before Morgan told me, but that's par for my not-good-at-whodunnits course. I hope readers don't guess either though, because the sense of menace if you don't is absolutely palpable and renders the book a real page-turner. I read in one, rather breathless, sitting.

If I had one nit-picking criticsm to make, and I know Nicola enjoys picking over words as much as I do, I'd say there are a tad too many verbless sentences. They do build tension and are perfect in this kind of psychological thriller, but if I noticed them, it probably means there are one or two too many. And if that's the worst thing I can find to say about Deathwatch, then I think you can see how highly I'm recommending it.

Five stars it is then!

My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending the book.

If Deathwatch is up their alley, they might also enjoy The Angel Collector by Bali Rai, which has a boy searching for his girlfriend who disappeared at a music festival. From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma has less mystery, but is an equally powerful thriller. Adults will enjoy The Book of You by Claire Kendal.

Booklists.jpg Deathwatch by Nicola Morgan is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.

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