‘While Nobody Is Watching’ – Lindsey Ryan #1 by Michelle Dunne

It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever. 

Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her. 

Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.

I don’t think that it does justice to ‘While Nobody Is Watching’ to describe it as a psychological thriller. A thriller sets out to thrill. A psychological thriller sets out to mess with the reader’s expectations and to harness irrational or pathological behaviour to create tension, spring surprise and strengthen the thrill the reader feels. I don’t think that that’s what this book sets out to do.

Yes, the main character is under threat from an unknown person and yes that threat escalated steadily and kept me guessing about its source and turning the pages to find out what would happen next, so I can see why the thriller label might be used

The thing is, I read ‘While Nobody Is Watching’ as a fundamentally honest book that gives an unflinching account of what PTSD does to Lindsey Ryan, an ex-soldier who now works with troubled kids in Cork. It speaks to the guilt of having survived, the dislocation from no longer being in the Army with people who understand what you’ve been through, the delusions and nightmares that make you fear for your sanity, the depression that makes you want to just make everything stop, the mood swings that drive risk-taking behaviour, and the embarrassment and anxiety that carrying visible physical scars across much of your body cause.

This is a book that manages to be high on authenticity without feeling like a lecture or a documentary because the authenticity centres around Lindsey Ryan herself. You see her at her worst and at her best. She feels real in a way that pushes her out of the typical thriller role of competent woman in distress and makes her into an individual who is doing her best with what she has.

I liked that nothing about Lindsey is romanticised and, by the end, nothing is hidden. The relationships between her and her ex-army comrades feel real and strong but it doesn’t feel like top-gun bullshit. These are ordinary people who have bonded because they’ve been through hell together and come out the other side. The relationships that Lindsey has with the kids also feel real. there are no Hallmark moments here, just a believable mix of strong emotions, big problems and occasional small wins.

The thriller element of the book seems to me mainly to be there to drive Lindsey to face up to the challenges in her life, to decide if she has the desire and the will to continue to live and to get her to reach out to the people around her to regain connections that will help her deal with her pain.

What I took away from reading the book wasn’t the solution to who was threatening Lindsey and why but the feeling of having met, understood and liked a woman who was facing up to some serious problems.

When the second Lindsey Ryan book, ‘The Invisible’, is published this month, I’ll be buying it not because I’m looking for a psychological thriller but because I want to know what Lindsey Ryan does next.

2 thoughts on “‘While Nobody Is Watching’ – Lindsey Ryan #1 by Michelle Dunne

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