The Watcher in the Wall: Teenage Suicide in the Cyber Age

Turn on your webcam if you’re doing it. Like we talked about. You’ll inspire me. You’ll inspire so many people like us.  

The Watcher in the Wall opens with teenage Adrian being picked on at school. There’s no particular reason that Adrian is the victim here; he dresses funny, he’s quiet, he had no protectors. The usual stupid reasons, but Adrian becomes the designated victim of his class and after a humiliating photo is posted to Facebook, Adrian that very same day hangs himself. It’s tragic and infuriating but when Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the FBI-BCA violent crime task force are informed by Stevens daughter about the incident, they can’t consider it a crime….at least not until they learn that Adrian was egged on by someone in cyberspace known as Ashley Frey. A voyeuristic psychopath who revels in driving teenagers to kill themselves so they can watch. Even after discovering the horrible truth, Stevens and Windermere are still on shaky legal ground. Urging someone else to commit suicide is after all protected by the First Amendment.

The novel’s best bits are its examination of Ashley’s victims and their sense of hopelessness and despair and a malevolent Iago like figure who never lays a hand on anyone while creating destruction. The dictates of the thriller genre mean the third act devolves into more standard fight scenes/bloodshed and it’s a little hard to believe the main baddie was able to mask his steps online with such sophistication. Still in the end, it’s a compulsively readable entry by Laukannen (author of The Professionals and The Stolen Ones) with an utterly repulsive (though sadly believable) villain, that can be devoured in a single sitting.

The Watcher in the Wall
Owen Laukkanen

Top photo: Bigstock

About Winnefred Ann Frolik (155 Articles)
Winnefred Ann Frolik (Winnie for short) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed the International Baccleareate program at Schenley High School and then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she completed a double major in English Literature and Creative Writing. After graduation she spent a number of years working in the non-profit sector and it was during that phase in her life she moved to D.C.  Winnie co-wrote a book on women in the U.S. Senate with Billy Herzig.  She enrolled in a baking program in culinary school and worked in food services for a while. She currently works in personal services while writing for Woman Around Town and doing other freelance writing projects including feeble personal attempts at fiction. Her brother is a reporter in Dayton, Ohio so clearly there are strong writing genes in the family.  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with two demanding cats.