The Watcher in the Shadows


By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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A chilling, compelling mystery from the internationally bestselling author of The Shadow of the Wind.

When fourteen-year-old Irene Sauvelle moves with her family to Cape House on the coast of Normandy, she’s immediately taken by the beauty of the place–its expansive cliffs, coasts, and harbors. There, she meets a local boy named Ishmael, and the two soon fall in love. But a dark plot is about to unfold involving a reclusive toymaker who lives in a gigantic mansion filled with mechanical beings and shadows of the past.

As strange lights shine through the fog surrounding a small, barren island, Irene’s younger brother dreams of a dark creature hidden deep in the forest. And when a young girl is found murdered, her body at the end of a path torn through the woods by a monstrous, inhuman force, Irene and Ishmael wonder–has a demonic presence been unleashed on the inhabitants of Cape House? Together, they’ll have to survive the most terrifying summer of their lives.


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Table of Contents

A Sneak Peek of Marina

Copyright Page

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Dear Reader,

The Watcher in the Shadows is the third of the novels I wrote for younger readers at the beginning of my career in the 1990s. How young is young when it comes to reading is a tricky question, and one I've never been able to answer. As with many things in life, it depends. 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. I was trying to offer a nod to all the books kids of my generation used to read, from the mysteries of Enid Blyton to the great nineteenth-century classic stories of intrigue and adventure from Dumas to Verne to Stevenson and beyond. I was also secretly hoping that adult readers would enjoy them as well, and that the novels would transport them back to those first books that capture a reader's imagination and fire a love for literature. A world of heroes, villains, magic, and adventure, a world in which children fight and love and live intensely and don't spend their entire dreamlives texting or surfing the net with virtual friends. These novels deliberately hark back to bygone days. They remind me of what the discovery of reading meant to me. I hope they remind you, too, regardless of your age. So, how young is young? It depends. Mostly, on you!

Happy travels,


Dear Irene,

Sometimes I think I am doomed never to forget the mirage of that summer we spent together in Blue Bay. You'd be surprised to see how little things have changed since those days. The lighthouse still rises through the haze like a sentry, and the road that runs alongside the Englishman's Beach is now just a faint track snaking through the sand to nowhere.

The ruins of Cravenmoore peer through the forest, silent and shrouded in darkness. On the increasingly rare occasions when I venture into the bay on my sailboat, I can still see the cracked windowpanes of the west wing. Sometimes I imagine I can see the lights again, flickering in the twilight. But I know that nobody lives there anymore. Nobody.

You will probably wonder what has become of the house on the headland, Seaview. Well, it's still there, isolated, facing the vast ocean up on the clifftop. Last winter a storm carried away what was left of the small jetty on the beach below. A wealthy jeweler from some nameless town was tempted to buy the house for next to nothing, but the westerly winds and the pounding of the waves against the cliffs managed to dissuade him. The salty air has made its mark on the white wood, and the secret path that led to the lagoon has become an impenetrable jungle, overrun with wild bushes and strewn with fallen branches.

From time to time, whenever my work down at the dock allows it, I get on my bike and cycle up to the headland to watch the sunset from the porch: just me and a flock of seagulls that has moved in without even bothering to ask permission from the estate agent. From up there you can still see the moon casting its silver thread toward the Cave of Bats as it rises over the horizon.

I remember that I once spun you a story about this cave: a tale about a sinister pirate whose ship was devoured by the grotto one night in 1746. It was a lie. There were never any smugglers or buccaneers who sailed into the shadows of that cave. In my defense, this was the only lie you ever heard from my lips. Although you probably knew from the start.

This morning, as I was hauling in a tangle of nets that had snagged on the reef, it happened again. For a split second I thought I could see you, standing on the porch of Seaview, gazing quietly out to sea as you used to. But when the seagulls rose from the building and flew away I realized there was nobody there. Farther up the coast, Mont-Saint-Michel hovered above the mist like a fugitive island that had run aground at low tide.

Sometimes I think that everyone has disappeared to some other place, far from Blue Bay, and only I have remained here, trapped in time, waiting in vain for the tide to bring back something other than memories.

I think this must be the hundredth letter I've sent to the last address I could find for you in Paris. Sometimes I wonder whether you've received any of my letters, and whether you still remember me and that dawn on the Englishman's Beach. Maybe you do—or maybe life has taken you far from here, far from the memories of the war.

Life was much simpler then, wasn't it? But what am I saying? Surely that's not true. I'm beginning to think that only I am foolish enough to go on reliving each and every one of those days in 1937, when you were still here, by my side.…



PARIS, 1936

THOSE WHO REMEMBER THE NIGHT Armand Sauvelle passed away would swear that a purple light flashed across the sky, leaving in its wake a trail of blazing ashes that faded away over the horizon—a light that his daughter, Irene, never saw, but that would haunt her dreams for years to come.

It was a cold winter's dawn, and the windowpanes in Ward 14 of Saint George's Hospital were covered in a film of ice.

Armand Sauvelle's flame went out silently, without so much as a sigh. His wife, Simone, and his daughter, Irene, looked up as the first glimmer of day cast needles of light across the hospital ward. His youngest child, Dorian, was asleep on one of the chairs. A heartrending stillness filled the room. No words were necessary to explain what had happened. After he'd suffered for six months, an illness whose name he was never able to pronounce had snatched away Armand Sauvelle's life.

It was the beginning of the worst year the Sauvelle family would ever experience.

Armand Sauvelle took his charm and his infectious laughter with him to the grave, but his numerous debts did not accompany him on his final journey. Soon a whole horde of creditors and vultures wearing elegant frock coats began to drop by the Sauvelles' home on Boulevard Haussmann. After the legal niceties of those first visits came the veiled threats. And these soon gave way to the seizure of the family's assets.

Prestigious schools and beautifully tailored clothes were replaced by part-time jobs and simpler outfits for Irene and Dorian. This was the beginning of the Sauvelles' spectacular fall into the real world. The one who came off the worst, however, was Simone. She returned to her job as a teacher, but the work did not provide enough income to stem the torrent of debt that consumed the family's limited resources. New documents signed by Armand seemed to crop up everywhere; Simone faced a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole of unpaid loans and letters of credit.

By this point young Dorian had begun to suspect that half the population of Paris was made up of lawyers and accountants, a special breed of ravenous rodent that lived aboveground. Also by then, and without telling her mother, Irene had taken a job in a dance hall. For just a few coins (which, in the early hours of the morning, she would slip into the box Simone kept hidden under the kitchen sink), she would dance with clumsy young soldiers with sweaty hands who were really no more than frightened children themselves.

At the same time, the Sauvelles discovered that the list of people who used to call themselves friends was evaporating like dew in the morning sun. That summer, however, Henri Laffont, an old friend of Armand Sauvelle, offered the family a small apartment above the art shop he managed in Montparnasse. He waved aside the rent, to be repaid in better times. All he asked in exchange for putting them up was Dorian's assistance as an errand boy, because his knees were no longer what they had once been. Simone could never find enough words with which to thank old Monsieur Laffont for his kindness. But the shopkeeper didn't expect any thanks. In a world of rats, they'd happened upon an angel.

As the first days of winter sent a chill through the streets, Irene turned fourteen years of age, although she felt more like twenty-four. For once, she spent the coins she earned in the dance hall on herself and bought a cake with which to celebrate her birthday with Simone and Dorian. Armand's absence still weighed on them like an oppressive shadow. They blew out the candles together in the narrow sitting room of their apartment on the Rue de Rennes, making a wish that the bad luck that had been hounding them for months would be extinguished along with the flames. For once, their wish was not ignored. Although they were unaware of it, the year of darkness was coming to an end.

Some weeks later a ray of hope unexpectedly burst into the lives of the Sauvelle family. Thanks to the influence of Monsieur Laffont and his network of acquaintances, Simone was offered a good job in Blue Bay, a small village on the coast far from the dreary grayness of Paris and the sad memories of Armand Sauvelle's last days. Apparently, a wealthy inventor and toy manufacturer named Lazarus Jann needed a housekeeper to take care of his palatial residence amid the forest of Cravenmoore.

The inventor lived in a huge mansion next to his old toy factory, which was now closed, with his wife, Alexandra, who was seriously ill and had been bedridden for twenty years. The pay was generous, and Lazarus Jann was offering them the possibility of moving into Seaview, a modest house that stood on the edge of the cliffs on the other side of Cravenmoore forest.

In the middle of June 1937 Monsieur Laffont bid good-bye to the Sauvelle family on Platform 6 of the Gare du Nord. Simone and her two children boarded the train that was to take them to the Normandy coast. As Monsieur Laffont watched the carriages disappear into the distance, he smiled to himself for a moment; he had the feeling that the story of the Sauvelles—their real story—had only just begun.




ON THEIR FIRST DAY AT SEAVIEW, Irene and her mother tried to instill some sort of order into what was to be their new home. Meanwhile, Dorian discovered a new passion: geography. Or, to be precise, mapmaking. Equipped with the pencils and drawing book Henri Laffont had given him as a parting gift, Simone Sauvelle's younger child retreated to a spot on the cliffs, a vantage point from which he could enjoy the spectacular view.

The village with its small fishing dock occupied the center of the large bay. To the east, an endless expanse of white sand, known as the Englishman's Beach, stretched along the water's edge. Farther on, the narrow point of the headland jutted out into the sea like a giant claw, separating Blue Bay from the wide gulf the locals called Black Bay because of its dark, deep waters. The Sauvelles' new home was perched on the very tip of the headland.

Half a mile out to sea, Dorian detected a small island with a lighthouse. The lighthouse tower stood dark and mysterious, its edges blurred by the shimmering haze. Turning his head back toward land, he could see his sister, Irene, and his mother standing on the porch of the house.

Seaview was a two-story building of white timber perched on the clifftop. Behind it grew a thick forest, and just above the treetops, he could see the majestic residence of Lazarus Jann: Cravenmoore.

Cravenmoore looked more like a castle than a home, the product of an extravagant and twisted imagination. A cathedral-like construction of arches, flying buttresses, towers, and domes adorned its angular roof. The building itself was shaped like a cross, with various wings sprouting from it. An army of gargoyles and stone angels guarded the façade like a flock of petrified specters. As Dorian closed his drawing book and prepared to return to Seaview, he wondered what kind of person would choose to live in a place like that. He would soon find out: That night they had been invited to dine at Cravenmoore, courtesy of their new benefactor.

Irene's new bedroom faced northwest. Gazing out of her window, she could see the lighthouse and the patches of light cast by the sun over the ocean. After months of imprisonment in the tiny Paris apartment, the luxury of having a room to herself and being able to close the door and enjoy her own private space felt sinfully good.

As she watched the sea turn to copper in the setting sun, Irene faced the dilemma of what to wear for her first dinner with Lazarus Jann. She had only a few items left from what had once been a huge wardrobe, and the idea of being received at Cravenmoore mansion made all her dresses seem like embarrassing old rags. After trying on the only two outfits that might do, Irene noticed another problem she hadn't counted on.

Ever since she had turned thirteen, her body had insisted on adding volume in some places and losing it in others. Now, close to her fifteenth birthday, Irene was more aware than ever of the influence of nature as she looked in the mirror. The severe cut of her drab clothes did not match her new curvaceous shape.

Shortly before nightfall, Simone Sauvelle rapped gently on Irene's door.

"Come in."

Her mother closed the door behind her and quickly assessed the situation. All of Irene's dresses were laid out on the bed. Wearing only a plain white vest, her daughter was kneeling by the window, staring out at the distant lights of the ships in the channel. Simone observed Irene's slender body and smiled to herself.

"Time flies and we don't even notice, do we?"

"None of them fits me. I'm sorry," Irene replied. "I've tried."

Simone went to the window and kneeled down next to her daughter. In the middle of the bay, the lights of the village spread ripples of color over the water. For a moment, they both gazed at the spectacle. Simone stroked her daughter's face and smiled.

"I think we're going to like this place. What do you think?" she asked.

"But what about us? Is he going to like us?"

"Mr. Jann?"

Irene nodded.

"We're a charming family. He'll love us," replied Simone.

"Are you sure?"

"I certainly hope so."

Irene pointed to her clothes.

"Wear something of mine," Simone said, smiling. "I think my dresses will look better on you than they do on me."

Irene blushed. "Don't exaggerate."

"Just you wait and see."

Dorian's expression when he saw his sister arrive at the foot of the stairs draped in one of Simone's dresses was priceless. Irene fixed her green eyes on her brother and raised a threatening finger.

"Not one word," she warned.

Dorian nodded mutely, unable to take his eyes off this stranger who spoke with Irene's voice. Simone noticed this and tried not to smile. She placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and kneeled down to straighten the purple bow tie he had inherited from his father.

"You'll spend your life surrounded by women, son. You'd better start getting used to it."

By the time the clock on the wall struck eight they were all ready for the great event, dressed in their smartest clothes. They were also terrified.

A light breeze blowing in from the sea stirred the thick forest surrounding Cravenmoore. The rustling of invisible leaves accompanied their footsteps as Simone and her two children walked along the path through the woods. A pale moon struggled to break through the canopy of shadows, and hidden birds nesting in the crowns of the century-old giants called out to one another in an unnerving chorus.

"This place gives me the creeps," said Irene.

"Nonsense," her mother snapped. "It's only a forest. On you go."

From his position at the rear, Dorian glanced around at the twisted forms of the vegetation. In the darkness his imagination transformed the sinister shapes into dozens of evil creatures lying in wait.

"In the daylight you'll see there's nothing out there but bushes and trees," said Simone Sauvelle, not sounding entirely sure herself.

A few minutes later, after a trek that Irene thought was never going to end, the imposing profile of Cravenmoore stood before them. Golden beams of light shone from the large windows beneath a jagged forest of gargoyles. Beyond the house they could make out the toy factory, an annex to the main building.

Once they were out of the woodland, Simone and her children stopped to contemplate the immensity of the toymaker's residence. Suddenly a bird that looked like a crow emerged from the undergrowth, flapped its wings, and took off, taking a curious route over the gardens that surrounded Cravenmoore. After circling one of the stone fountains it alighted at Dorian's feet. When it had stopped flapping its wings, the crow lay on its side and began to rock gently to and fro until it came to rest. Dorian crouched down and cautiously stretched out his right hand.

"Be careful," warned Irene.

Ignoring her advice, Dorian stroked the crow's feathers. The bird showed no signs of life. Dorian lifted it up and unfolded its wings. He looked puzzled, then dismayed. He turned to Irene and Simone.

"It's made of wood," he murmured.

They all looked at one another. Simone sighed.

"Let's just make a good impression, all right?" she begged her children.

They both nodded in agreement. Dorian placed the bird back on the ground. Simone Sauvelle gave a hint of a smile, and then the three of them climbed the white marble staircase that snaked toward the large bronze entrance.

The doors of Cravenmoore opened automatically, before they'd even had time to use the brass knocker, which was shaped like an angel's face. A figure stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the aura of light that poured from the house. The figure suddenly came alive, tilting its head with a soft mechanical click. As it did so, they could see its face for the first time. It stared at them with lifeless eyes, simple glass beads encased in a mask that was frozen in a spine-chilling grin.

Dorian gulped. Irene and her mother took a step back. The figure stretched out one hand and then stood still again.

"I hope Christian didn't frighten you. He's a rather clumsy old creation of mine."

The Sauvelles turned toward the voice that came from the foot of the marble stairs. A kind, gracefully aging face was smiling up at them mischievously. Blue eyes sparkled beneath a thick, silvery mop of well-groomed hair. The man, who was elegantly dressed and held an ebony walking stick with colored inlays, climbed the steps toward them, and then bowed politely.

"My name is Lazarus Jann, and I think I owe you an apology."

His voice was warm and comforting. His large blue eyes scrutinized each member of the family until finally they came to rest on Simone's face.

"I was taking my usual evening walk through the forest and was delayed. Madame Sauvelle, I believe?"

"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."

"Please call me Lazarus."

Simone nodded. "This is my daughter, Irene," she said. "And this is Dorian, the youngest in the family."

Lazarus Jann shook their hands courteously. His grasp was firm and pleasant, his smile infectious.

"Right. As for Christian, don't let him frighten you. I keep him as a souvenir of my first period. He's awkward and doesn't look very friendly, I know."

"Is he a machine?" asked Dorian quickly. He was fascinated.

Simone's scolding look came too late. Lazarus smiled at Dorian.

"You could call him that. Technically, Christian is what is known as an automaton."

"Did you build him, sir?"

"Dorian," his mother reproached him.

Lazarus smiled again. The boy's curiosity didn't seem to bother him in the least.

"Yes. I built him, and many more besides. That is, or rather was, my profession. But I think dinner is ready. Shall we discuss this, and get to know one another better, over a nice plate of food?"

The smell of a delicious roast wafted toward them.

Neither the alarming reception by the automaton nor the impressive exterior of Cravenmoore could have prepared the Sauvelles for the interior of Lazarus Jann's mansion. No sooner had they stepped through the front door than they were submerged in a world of fantasy far beyond anything they could have imagined.

A sumptuous staircase seemed to spiral toward infinity. Looking up, the Sauvelles could see it vanishing into the central tower of Cravenmoore, which was crowned by a small turret with windows all around, infusing the house with an otherworldly light. Beneath this spectral glow lay an immense gallery of mechanical creations. On one of the walls, a large clock with cartoon eyes smiled at the visitors. A ballerina wrapped in a transparent veil pirouetted in the center of an oval hall in which every object, every detail, formed part of the world of fantastical creatures brought to life by Lazarus Jann. The doorknobs were smiling faces that winked as you turned them. A large owl with magnificent plumage slowly dilated its glass pupils as it flapped its wings. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of miniature figures and toys filled an endless array of display cabinets it would have taken a whole lifetime to explore. A small mechanical puppy wagged its tail and barked playfully as a tiny metal mouse scurried by. Hanging from the ceiling, a merry-go-round of dragons and stars danced in midair to the distant notes of a music box.

Wherever they looked, the Sauvelles discovered new marvels, impossible new creations that defied anything they had ever seen before. For a few minutes all three of them just stood there, completely bewitched.

"It's… it's amazing!" Irene said, unable to believe her eyes.

"Well, this is only the entrance hall. But I'm glad you like it," said Lazarus, leading them toward Cravenmoore's grand dining room.

Dorian's eyes were as big as saucers. He was speechless. Simone and Irene, who were equally stunned, tried hard not to fall under the spell cast by the house.

The room where dinner was served was no less impressive than the entryway. From the glassware to the cutlery, from the crockery to the rich carpets covering the floor, everything bore the mark of Lazarus Jann. Not one object in the house seemed to belong to the real world, to the drab, horribly mundane world they had left behind the moment they'd stepped inside the mansion. But Irene's eyes were glued to a large painting that hung above the fireplace, which was shaped like the flaming jaws of a dragon. It was a portrait of a lady wearing a white dress. She was stunningly beautiful. The power of her gaze seemed to transcend the painter's brush. For a few seconds, Irene was mesmerized by her strange, captivating eyes.

"My wife, Alexandra… when she was still in good health. Marvelous days those were," said Lazarus behind her, his voice tinged with sadness.

The dinner passed pleasantly in the glow of the flames. Lazarus Jann proved to be an excellent host who quickly charmed Dorian and Irene with his jokes and astonishing stories. After the first few minutes, the initial tension lifted and the Sauvelles began to join in the toymaker's relaxed conversation. As the evening wore on, he told them that the delicious food had been prepared by Hannah, a girl of Irene's age who worked for him as a cook and a maid.

By the time they started on the second course (roast turkey, Hannah's specialty) the Sauvelles felt as if they were in the presence of an old friend. Simone was relieved to see that the affection flowing between her children and Lazarus was mutual. Even she was falling for his charm.

Between one anecdote and the next, Lazarus also gave them polite explanations about the house and the nature of the duties Simone's new job entailed. Friday night was Hannah's night off, and she spent it with her family in Blue Bay. But they would get the chance to meet her as soon as she returned to work, Lazarus said. Hannah was the only other person, apart from Lazarus and his wife, who lived at Cravenmoore. She would help the Sauvelles settle in and deal with any queries that might arise concerning the house.

When the dessert arrived—an irresistible raspberry tart—Lazarus began to sketch out what he expected of them. Although he had retired, he still worked occasionally in his workshop, which occupied an adjacent building. Both the factory and the rooms on all floors above ground level were forbidden to them. They must never, under any circumstances, set foot in any of them. Especially in the west wing, as this was where his wife lived.

For more than twenty years, Alexandra Jann had been suffering from a strange and incurable disease that confined her to her bed. Lazarus's wife lived on the second floor of the west wing, in a room that only her husband entered, in order to look after her and provide her with the care her condition required. The toymaker told them that his wife, once a beautiful young woman, full of life, had caught the mysterious illness while they were traveling around central Europe.

The deadly virus slowly took hold of her, and very soon she could barely walk. Within six months her health had deteriorated further, turning her into a complete invalid, a sad reminder of the person he had married only a few years earlier. Twelve months after she caught the disease, her memory began to fail, and in a matter of weeks she could scarcely recognize her own husband. From that point on she stopped speaking, and looking into her eyes was like gazing into a bottomless well. Alexandra Jann was twenty-six at the time. She had never since left Cravenmoore.

The Sauvelles listened in silence to Lazarus's sad account. Though he was obviously distressed by his memories and by the two decades of solitude, he tried to downplay the matter by shifting the conversation to Hannah's mouthwatering tart. But the sorrow in his eyes did not go unnoticed by Irene.

It wasn't hard for her to imagine why Lazarus Jann had escaped into a place of his own making. Deprived of what he loved most, he had taken refuge in a fantasy world, creating hundreds of creatures with which to fill the deep loneliness surrounding him.


  • Praise for The Watcher in the Shadows:
    "Zafón cuts between his various characters with cinematic skill, and his habit of telling stories within the narrative is put to spine-tingling use...Good, solid scares."—Booklist
  • "Exciting...Plenty of thrills and chills."—Publishers Weekly
  • "A clever plot, sympathetic characters, and a richly detailed 1930s setting; a haunted, melancholy tone with an air of nostalgia and an atmosphere of menace."
    The Horn Book
  • "A well-written, well-crafted tale full of unique characters with full personalities."—

On Sale
Jul 1, 2014
Page Count
288 pages

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

About the Author

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of seven novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Prince of Mist and the international phenomena The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. His work has been published in more than fifty countries and honored with numerous awards. He divides his time between Barcelona, and Los Angeles.

Learn more about this author