Lockdown: Always Watching

I would have liked to sneak up behind Tam J while she was reading today’s book – I think I would have been able to give her a good fright! I think it’s fair to say that Tam was more than a little spooked, and completely gripped by Chevy Steven’s Always Watching (Allen and Unwin)…

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 Well, in short, Always Watching is fast moving, suspenseful, chilling and I loved it!

Nadine is a psychiatrist who suffers from claustrophobia but has never been able to work out why. That is, until she meets with a patient, Heather, who starts to trigger flash-backs, memories that may hold the answer to her panic. At the same time, as you might expect, that are also memories that Nadine is not sure she wants to relive.

always watchingShe helps people put their demons to rest, but she has a few of her own…

In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.

When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?

And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.

I have spent most nights this past week reading way later into the night than I should, unable to put the book down. Each chapter seemed to end in a cliffhanger and I couldn’t help but read on. Nadine is a courageous character. She lives on her own, and seems to have no-one that would notice if she went missing. Despite this she searches the streets and dangerous houses full of squatters in search of her drug addicted daughter who left her home seven years ago. Chevy Steven’s skilful writing ensured that, as the reader, I was able to feel the threat, I was practically able to smell the stench that was described by the author, and I felt like I was walking with Nadine past each shadow.

Throughout the novel, Nadine starts to remember some terribly troubling memories of her childhood and specifically her time spent with her mother and brother in a commune. The commune was run by Aaron Quinn, and as her treatment of Heather continues Nadine begins to remember why that name sends chills through her. Aaron wields amazing mind-control when it comes to convincing people to join his commune and convincing them that he is the answer to their problems, but Aaron was not what he seemed to be. Nadine becomes determined to make him accountable for his behaviour and protect others from being mistreated at his hand.  Even if this places hers in terrible danger.

When Nadine’s daughter, Lisa becomes involved with the commune, Nadine’s drive to shut down Aaron and his followers becomes more obsessive. But who can Nadine trust? Who can really help her? And who is just posing to help her, but actually putting her in further danger?

Although I did find certain parts of this story a little predictable, I think that might be because I have read quite a few of these kinds of stories. Still, this did not detract from the story or the suspense I felt while reading Always Watching. I was still surprised by the twists, right up to the conclusion of the book.

I felt the eeriness that Nadine must have felt when she thought she was being watched, and I could practically hear the bumps in the dark and I felt her heartbreak too.

Always Watching is an easy read, and an enjoyable one. I would definitely like to read more novels by Chevy Steven, as I really enjoyed her writing style. I might have to have a bit of a dig around her website for my next read.

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You can find out more about Chevy Steven’s Always Watching here