Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn’t know who by. When a dark figure appears and shatters Seb’s idyllic life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he’d left behind has far from forgotten him. What’s more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia. To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts that plague his every waking moment. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims.
Adam Nevill is a British author, known for his gripping, intense, and downright scary reads. Under A Watchful Eye is his latest, and it’s a chilling book that takes the reader to extremely frightening and visceral places, repeated journeys into the supernatural that leave one on edge. This is no mere potboiler though – Nevill combines the scares and shocks with a strong plot and incredibly well drawn characters – Seb as a lead character is complex, flawed and hugely believable, which is important given the often bizarre journey that the reader accompanies him upon.
I’m not a huge reader of horror, it has to be said. A childhood spent devouring ghost stories bought in charity shops, then the endless nights unable to sleep for fear of ghosts visiting me (one particularly difficult period had me convinced that the spectre of Abraham Lincoln was under my bed…) has left me rather keen to avoid anything too scary – but I was sold on this by the excellent reviews of Nevill’s previous work, and the fact that I have a ginormous cat who provides some comfort when scared, even if I imagine he’d be absolutely hopeless in the case of an actual emergency…
It should be said that this isn’t a book that immediately grabs you – instead Nevill allows the reader to get to know Seb well first, before planting seeds of doubt in both Seb and the reader as to the truth behind the strange encounters and events that Seb seems to be having. It’s a clever move – helping the reader form a strong bond with the character, especially given that he’s not one who is always that likeable. When the descent into full blown horror eventually happens, it’s made even dizzier due to the careful planning and build up that Nevill has given it, and it’s all the more horrifying as a result, leaving me with a feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’d plunged down a steep drop on a rickety rollercoaster. The Devon coast makes for an intriguing setting too – the sunny familiarity of the setting descends into dark shadows with a power that will make even the bravest of readers check over their shoulders every now and then…
Nevill is a superb writer, and has carefully crafted a journey for his readers into dark, dark depths. Written with huge skill, the events of the plot may well make the reader not notice some of the rather beautifully crafted prose that Nevill has drawn his story together with, and it’s well worth going over the book again for the haunting phrases and carefully worded descriptions that keep this book in the reader’s mind far longer than may have happened otherwise. It’s also particularly impressive that he’s taken a trope as old as the Troubled author leads isolated life one and breathed new and original life into it, making this a read unlike any I’ve ever had before.
Part modern psychological thriller and part tribute to the more traditional horror story of those like M.R. James, Under A Watchful eye is a gripping read and an intriguing world that author Adam Nevill has populated with memorable characters and an original plot. Curl up in front of the fire with this tale of fear, despair and confusion – but make sure to leave a light on when you go to bed… Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
This review was written for and originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk