This last few months has been a bonanza for fans of horror supremo Adam Nevill, but they better make the most of “Under a Watchful Eye” as this is the author’s last release until 2018. I practiced what I preached and following my own sage advice, read this rather tasty and fiendishly well plotted supernatural thriller over six very enjoyable evenings. It was great company and with all novels by this author was sad to close it for the last time.
If you’re read Nevill’s superb recent short story compilation “Some Will Not Sleep” you might be in for a tiny shock when you pick up this new read, as two of the characters from one of the stories form the backbone of much of this novel. I won’t say which story, in case you don’t want to know, however, Nevill does mention this fact in the end notes of “Some Will Not Sleep” so it won’t be a major surprise to everyone. Some authors cross-pollinate where works pretty frequently, but returning to an old story is new for this author. Part 1 of the novel has the same name as the short story, so the clue is there right from the start for the more observant readers. Maybe I was a bit dopey, but I didn’t pick up on it until a bit later when the second character is revealed in earnest. However, casual readers could easily pick up “Under a Watchful Eye” and never know of the short story and be none the wiser. It works well both ways and I’m sure long-term fans will enjoy the cross-reference especially.
Sebastian is a horror writer who has found success in early middle age after years of struggling, scrimping and saving and now lives a peaceful life on the same south of England coastline as the author Adam Nevill. He’s a bachelor who keeps his girlfriend at a distance and lives an ordered peaceful life until in the early stages of the novel begins to see visions of someone he quickly realises is an unwelcome blast from his past. An individual he hoped never to see again. Shaken, he has his girlfriend come to stay for the weekend as the visions become more frequent and the person comes both closer and more threatening. Initially the girlfriend thinks Seb’s losing the plot until she experiences a feeling of both being watched and stalked by something whilst they are out walking. Badly shaken, she deserts him and the unwelcome visitor comes knocking and a world of pain awaits Seb as the plot bobs and weaves into numerous clever directions. I’m not going to reveal where the plot takes the reader, except to say it is a very enjoyable ride deep into an area of the supernatural which Nevill has yet to explore directly in her career thus far.
Having read all of Adam’s novels and being a massive fan it’s hard not to compare this to the others. Overall, the key factor in accessing his complete body of work is the consistent high standard, shown by the fact that no two readers would necessarily pick out the same novel as a favourite. So this new novel fits comfortably into his library and will be a sure fire it for his many fans. It’s a different beast from the previous two novels, due to the nature of the plot it doesn’t have the intensity of the desperate father looking for the lost daughter in “The Lost Girl” or the sheer fear factor suffered by Stephanie as the hands of the inhabitants of 82 Edgehill Road in “No One Gets Out Of Here Alive” instead this novel is more of a slow burner which takes pleasure in laying its cards on the table very delicately, with the second half of the novel cleverly shrouded from the reader until they arrive there. Seb was a nice enough guy, but I didn’t find myself rooting for him as I did the lead characters in the previously mentioned novels but the clever twist near the end does play a part in this. Read carefully for clues…..
Around 20% into the novel we have the crossover with the short story I mentioned. At the time of reading I wasn’t convinced I liked this element as for the next few sections the novel re-treads similar ground as the short story and it does slightly foreshadow the direction of the novel for a bit. However, things are not that simple and the story manoeuvres into different supernatural directions soon enough including cults, some pretty nasty minor character both human and otherwise and the main theme connected to astral projection, out of body experiences and a really terrifying organisation which was almost forgotten from history.
The novel has a great change of pace in the second half as we leave the seaside and Seb begins to further his research and is unknowingly sucked into a spider’s web of horrors. The supernatural descriptions are what you would expect from Nevill as we see a glimpse of what might be waiting on the other side. Another great sequence involved a long train and several in a haunted house most of us would run a mile from. This house creeped poor old Seb so much it was better to keep the torch off than see what was around him. Nasty…. `
Adam Nevill is quite simply great at weaving this type of supernatural tale and I would happily read him whenever I got the opportunity. Although this is most definitely a horror novel I’m sure there are plenty of thriller readers out there who would enjoy a dabble into the supernatural. Another winner from this a true craftsman of the horror genre.