Fiona Stark has been happy the last few weeks dating Rob McKay. The mere sight of him quickens her heartbeat, and he makes her feel safe whenever they’re together. But back at her house, she can’t escape the impression that someone’s constantly observing her. Unbeknownst to her, Justin Pitchford lurks outside her window, often sleeping in the woods near her home, and sometimes sneaking inside to watch her sleep. However, things aren’t what they seem: Justin believes he’s protecting Fiona from Rob. Sure enough, it turns out that Rob has a temper, and that he apparently doesn’t like Fiona’s cop friend, Jim. The situation escalates when Rob invites Fiona on a 10-day trip to Portugal, and Justin surreptitiously trails them out of the country. Amyna’s novel relies on drama just as much as suspense: Justin’s back story will likely garner readers’ sympathy, as he witnessed the murder of his mother’s cousin, who raised him; and in an unsettling sequence, Fiona is horrified by a clump of black hair in her tub—a sharp contrast to her own auburn locks. The author doesn’t bog down the story with a surplus of characters, keeping the count at a modest seven (which also includes Fiona’s pal and Jim’s girlfriend, Carmen), and she even minimizes the settings, staying mostly at Fiona’s house or in Portugal with Rob’s friends, Lester and Abby. The initial description of Justin is demonic and a bit too transparent: He has “uneven teeth,” a surname too close to the word “pitchfork” and is, at least for Fiona, an unseen, evil presence. That said, the author doesn’t define any of the characters superficially, and ultimately reveals more about Justin; similarly, Jim and Carmen have a well-developed relationship, and aren’t simply Fiona’s companions. Amyna’s grandest triumph, however, is her nonlinear narrative: It alternates between Fiona and Justin’s perspectives and frequently backtracks, aptly detailing alternate points of view of various events.
A short novel that engagingly retains all the essential ingredients of a thriller while keeping its plot uncomplicated.