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Everything about them seemed atavistic, elemental-wild hair matted like savages, jutting shoulders and collarbones, sharply angular limbs. The movement and wonder were captured and held in suspense, eternally. And in the foreground, slightly off-centre, one of the smallest children, a boy, looking bright-eyed and haunting up through the chaos, straight through to the camer Everything about them seemed atavistic, elemental-wild hair matted like savages, jutting shoulders and collarbones, sharply angular limbs. The movement and wonder were captured and held in suspense, eternally. And in the foreground, slightly off-centre, one of the smallest children, a boy, looking bright-eyed and haunting up through the chaos, straight through to the camera's heart. Australia, 1967. Four children tell a lie to get out of trouble. As a result, an immigrant worker is wrongly accused of a crime, with horrific repercussions. Nearly forty years later, in London, police gun down an innocent man suspected of carrying explosives concealed by his overcoat; and in Sydney a short time later, on the final day of a high-security international summit, another suspected terrorist pushes his way through the heat of summer, wearing an overcoat... As the tension builds in a sweltering city locked down in paranoia, we follow the now-adult children: two in Sydney, drawn into the heart of the unfolding drama; one in Italy, raging against global panic and mob hysteria; and one in Morocco, caught up in an anti-Western riot. Taut, haunting and offering no mercy from the relentlessly escalating suspense, Watch Out For Me is an astonishing novel that takes you to the heart of the fear and joy of childhood-and its secrets which can never be forgotten or outrun. The past resurfaces as a city holds its breath, and it is not only the children who will be forced to confront the consequences of that long-ago lie.


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Everything about them seemed atavistic, elemental-wild hair matted like savages, jutting shoulders and collarbones, sharply angular limbs. The movement and wonder were captured and held in suspense, eternally. And in the foreground, slightly off-centre, one of the smallest children, a boy, looking bright-eyed and haunting up through the chaos, straight through to the camer Everything about them seemed atavistic, elemental-wild hair matted like savages, jutting shoulders and collarbones, sharply angular limbs. The movement and wonder were captured and held in suspense, eternally. And in the foreground, slightly off-centre, one of the smallest children, a boy, looking bright-eyed and haunting up through the chaos, straight through to the camera's heart. Australia, 1967. Four children tell a lie to get out of trouble. As a result, an immigrant worker is wrongly accused of a crime, with horrific repercussions. Nearly forty years later, in London, police gun down an innocent man suspected of carrying explosives concealed by his overcoat; and in Sydney a short time later, on the final day of a high-security international summit, another suspected terrorist pushes his way through the heat of summer, wearing an overcoat... As the tension builds in a sweltering city locked down in paranoia, we follow the now-adult children: two in Sydney, drawn into the heart of the unfolding drama; one in Italy, raging against global panic and mob hysteria; and one in Morocco, caught up in an anti-Western riot. Taut, haunting and offering no mercy from the relentlessly escalating suspense, Watch Out For Me is an astonishing novel that takes you to the heart of the fear and joy of childhood-and its secrets which can never be forgotten or outrun. The past resurfaces as a city holds its breath, and it is not only the children who will be forced to confront the consequences of that long-ago lie.

30 review for Watch Out for Me

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helen McKenna

    It’s a typical Australian summer in 1967. Long hot days, the childhood freedom to roam and explore to your heart’s content (as you could back then), sunburn and bare feet. Four children (three siblings and their cousin) are holidaying at a beach shack in the small town of Bradley’s Head. Amidst their idyllic summer holiday, a baby goes missing and the children tell a lie to keep themselves out of trouble. Of course they have no way of foreseeing what dire consequences their seemingly small fib w It’s a typical Australian summer in 1967. Long hot days, the childhood freedom to roam and explore to your heart’s content (as you could back then), sunburn and bare feet. Four children (three siblings and their cousin) are holidaying at a beach shack in the small town of Bradley’s Head. Amidst their idyllic summer holiday, a baby goes missing and the children tell a lie to keep themselves out of trouble. Of course they have no way of foreseeing what dire consequences their seemingly small fib will have. Fast forward to 2005 and those children are spread around the globe – Hannah is in Sydney, Lizzie in Morocco and Richard in Rome. They haven’t seen their cousin Toby since that summer - then his reappearance in their lives coincides with a series of seemingly unconnected world events that sees each of them struggling with a personal demon of some sort. The pace of this book is relentless. From the short, choppy chapters to the constant to and fro between past and present, different characters, news articles and commentary on world events you don’t have time to draw a breath. Each time you are fed a tiny piece more of the puzzle and are compelled to keep reading and exploring, hoping to answer at least one of the myriad of questions that keep arising. For me the format was a little bit disjointed at times, as I often felt like I didn't get enough information before moving onwards again. Of course the seemingly unrelated world events in 2005 are in fact linked to the events of that long ago summer – although this is not revealed until close to the end. This has been done very cleverly and brings to mind the “butterfly effect” theory – that nothing happens in the world without a flow-on effect somewhere and also that secrets can be buried, but never forgotten. I really loved the way the author captured the era of the 1960s and the ‘typical’ small Australian beach town. From the description of the fibro shack the family holidayed in, to the wooden jetty, the town gossip and the undertones of racism – it is right on the mark. She also nailed the reality of the ‘mob mentality’ when something bad happens and people cluster together and gossip and draw incorrect conclusions and a juggernaut is created that is difficult to stop. The characters are well drawn (both in childhood and adulthood). There isn’t really a main character, although Toby (the cousin) can be seen as the conduit that both gels and fractures the family. In the 1967 sections, the story is mainly told from his viewpoint, although this changes when it moves to 2005 and each character takes turns in narrating. Overall Watch Out For Me is a compelling read that hooks you in and continues to drag you into a massive web – where you are not sure which way is up, but you know you have to keep looking.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Junipa

    Hated it. It had almost all the elements I loathe in a novel: story told in the past; story being told in the present. Different narrators, all telling a different story. I just read it until the end because I was hoping that all the threads would come together and make sense.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Four children telling a lie to stay out of trouble and a man shot in the head in London 40 years later. Obviously there's some sort of connection as they are both elements of WATCH OUT FOR ME by Sylvia Johnson. What's always intriguing with these sorts of unlikely components, is how and where the author is going to take the reader. WATCH OUT FOR ME is an intriguing and complex debut psychological thriller. Told in a series of short chapters attributed mostly to those children, their story bounces Four children telling a lie to stay out of trouble and a man shot in the head in London 40 years later. Obviously there's some sort of connection as they are both elements of WATCH OUT FOR ME by Sylvia Johnson. What's always intriguing with these sorts of unlikely components, is how and where the author is going to take the reader. WATCH OUT FOR ME is an intriguing and complex debut psychological thriller. Told in a series of short chapters attributed mostly to those children, their story bounces between them then and as the adults they have become. One brother, two sisters, and their young cousin, who all come together for a summer holiday where something bad happened. Whilst there is that concentration on the past, there are ripples into the present. WATCH OUT FOR ME builds deceptively. At the start we're very much looking for an explanation of what happened in 1967. In the current timeline one sister (Hannah) is in Sydney, dealing with the inconveniences of life in Sydney in lockdown for the visit of the American President; whilst the other (Lizzie) is in Morocco dealing with a more personal threat. Cousin Toby is newly back in the Hannah's life, conveniently ducked by her brother Richard. The relationship of the three siblings with each other, and then with the outsider - the cousin that they all seemed to like - touches on so many of the fundamental themes of this book - fear, prejudice, expediency, violence and panic, hysteria and cruelty - purposeful and accidental. Meanwhile the true story of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in London in the aftermath of the 2005 Underground bombings is touched upon, using clippings from the British newspapers. This is not as odd or as sensationalist a juxtaposition as it would seem. There is a synergy between the fictional and the fact. The use of the fact isn't gratuitous - it illustrates all too well the mistakes that can be made in the realm of supposition. There are some standout characterisations in this book - Hannah grumpy, ranting, tense, scared, conflicted, abrasive, tricky. Lizzie is more contained; frightened by the situation she finds herself in, stuck in a strange land, it never seems like she won't be able to cope. Richard, the elder brother elusive, uninvolved. Toby hesitant, his separation from the others has had ramifications in his life, as it emerges it did for the other three. WATCH OUT FOR ME is an interesting construction. Much of the story is elusive, ethereal in some places, superficially there's a lot of disconnected elements - the three siblings, Toby, the mysterious man in the heavy overcoat, the past and present timelines. It's a style that's going to be difficult for some readers, it's content uncomfortable, disconcerting. Yet there's tension and suspicion and there's a connection to everything when you start to dig below the surface. Often, when discovered, the connection is the emotional and personality traits formed or demonstrated in 1967. WATCH OUT FOR ME isn't a book in which the past comes back to haunt the present, rather it's a book in which the past gives you clues to the people that these children will grow up to become. The way that their choices back then reflect, and affect, who they are years later. Whilst the past is ultimately explained, the present is frequently more hinted at, not requiring blatant explanation, left to interpretation. Which of course makes it the perfect book for this reader.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Well, there I was telling you that I hardly ever read thrillers, and here’s the second one I’ve read within a week. Maybe, if they were all as good as this one, I’d read more of them. Most so-called thrillers are so overt in the way that they manipulate the reader, they bore me to tears. But Watch Out for Me is way better than that. Richard Flanagan (The Unknown Terrorist) and Sandy McCutcheon (The Haha Man) both used the thriller genre to tackle the issue of global panic and public hysteria abo Well, there I was telling you that I hardly ever read thrillers, and here’s the second one I’ve read within a week. Maybe, if they were all as good as this one, I’d read more of them. Most so-called thrillers are so overt in the way that they manipulate the reader, they bore me to tears. But Watch Out for Me is way better than that. Richard Flanagan (The Unknown Terrorist) and Sandy McCutcheon (The Haha Man) both used the thriller genre to tackle the issue of global panic and public hysteria about terrorism – and both left me cold even though I mostly agreed with the proposition they were using fiction to assert. The reason that Watch Out for Me works is because the characters and the situation are so ordinary they are convincing. All of us know people who are like these characters, and the events that are used to construct the plot are authentic. It’s not overwritten, it’s not melodramatic, and the tension builds in a careful sustained way. A baby goes missing and four children tell a lie to get out of trouble without realising that their lie casts suspicion on an innocent man. He’s an outsider, a foreigner, in the 1960s when monocultural Australia was reluctantly being redefined, and that’s enough for Mrs Monckton and her ilk. That’s enough for a gang of kids raised in the free-and-easy sixties to start a chain of events that no one could foresee. To read the rest of my review (no spoilers) http://anzlitlovers.com/2012/11/30/wa...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Makereta

    As a New Zealander I love the evocations of dry-grass/ hot-sand/burnt barbecue-by-the-rocks childhood delivered in blunt dialect familiar to all of us who have grown up in the southern antipodes. Sylvia Johnson captures the discomfort of childhood along with its joys and easily demonstrates how one can end-up out-balancing the other, tainting even our sub-conscious memories and shaping our adulthood. But more important is the way in which Johnson builds suspense, adding piece after intriguing pi As a New Zealander I love the evocations of dry-grass/ hot-sand/burnt barbecue-by-the-rocks childhood delivered in blunt dialect familiar to all of us who have grown up in the southern antipodes. Sylvia Johnson captures the discomfort of childhood along with its joys and easily demonstrates how one can end-up out-balancing the other, tainting even our sub-conscious memories and shaping our adulthood. But more important is the way in which Johnson builds suspense, adding piece after intriguing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, each morsel making you hungry for the next. The book is also a powerful statement on a society which appears to have abandoned at a very deep level the basic principles of looking out for the helpless and judging people innocent until they are proven guilty. If I can ever write a book even half as good as this one I will be very proud. Well done, Ms Johnson, I look forward to reading more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    I must admit, I don't usually go for Australian literature. I just have never had much luck with those choices... I chose this book purely because it was a new release and the front cover caught my eye. In a wrap - it's a good read but not a GREAT read. The storyline fluctuates all over the place (present, past, Morocco, Australia) and something doesn't seem quite right (in the storyline) but it's hard to put your finger on what exactly is off. I guess that's why it's successful in pulling you in I must admit, I don't usually go for Australian literature. I just have never had much luck with those choices... I chose this book purely because it was a new release and the front cover caught my eye. In a wrap - it's a good read but not a GREAT read. The storyline fluctuates all over the place (present, past, Morocco, Australia) and something doesn't seem quite right (in the storyline) but it's hard to put your finger on what exactly is off. I guess that's why it's successful in pulling you into the story...a need to know - which you do by the end.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janel

    I love the Australian child summer memories this book journeys back to - but there is too much back n forth w the characters, time frames, countries. I think you need more than 1-2 pages each chapter/character build. I liked the twist in the story but have been left hanging on the ending.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nova

    I decided to get out of my comfort zone and read a mystery/thriller written by a female author. Hmmm must admit I prefer Lee Child, Harlen Coben etc.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Denise Tannock

    What was this about???? Finished it and still wondering

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy Chandler

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Masson

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kylie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Robards

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mairi Walker

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deb

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Kernochan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally Carveth

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex Adams

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ginetta

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jill Fookes

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Burtt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emil

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Neilsen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharkell

  30. 4 out of 5

    Genna

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