The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated by Lucia Graves
The offer of a new job in a small resort town on the coast of Normandy allows the recently widowed Simone Sauvelle the chance for her and her two children to escape a poverty-stricken life in Paris. As the assistant to brilliant toymaker Lazarus Jann, Simone is granted use of a home of their own, Seaview, while she works in Lazarus’ sprawling mansion, Cravenmoore; in spite of a few inexplicable quirks and demands, not to mention a mysteriously tragic past, her new employer is immediately charming and welcoming.
That summer of 1937, the small family settles into their comfortable new lives: Dorian readily finds friends among the village boys, and Irene finds near instant companionship with Hannah, two years older, who works as Lazarus’ cook and maid … until she meets Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. At 14, Irene is about to fall in love for the first time in her young life. But what should have an idyllic summer proves to be a gruesome nightmare of murder, missing persons, soulless automatons, and an unconscionable shadow driven by revenge. Haunted by the diary of a long-suffering young woman who risked her life for true love, Irene will do exactly the same … for her family, for her heart, for her newly maturing self.
Although probably best known for his 2001 noir-ish mystery, The Shadow of the Wind, the internationally bestselling Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón began his writerly career two decades ago with young adult titles which have only recently become available in English. Watcher is Zafón’s third YA novel in English and hit shelves last month although it was originally published in Spain in 1995. In this opening “A Note from the Author,” Zafón ruminates on “[h]ow young is young when it comes to reading” his books, and suggests that “When I wrote these books I was aiming to write the kind of novel I would have liked to read when I was twelve or thirteen years old,” he explains. Although middle grade readers might be on the too-young side – an extreme fear factor looms heavily – older kiddies and parents, too, should find Watcher quite the swift, page-thumbing experience.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 1995, 2013 (United States)