Sunday, 28 July 2013

Always Watching

Author: Chevy Stevens
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) -- Kindle e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: June 18, 2013
First Line: "The first time I saw Heather Simeon, she was curled up in a ball in the seclusion room at the hospital, a thin blue blanket tight around her, the bandages sharp white lines around her wrists."

Book Description from GoodReadsShe 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.

Sometimes you can leave the past, but you can never escape.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and St Martin's Press for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Thoughts:  This is Canadian author Chevy Stevens' third book and centres around Dr Nadine Lavoie, a character whom we first saw in previously in Stevens' other works.  While Stevens' is one of my go-to Canadian authors I have to say that this book falls somewhere in between her two other books for me -- meaning that I liked this book better than her 2nd book, "Never Knowing", but slightly less than her first book "Still Missing".

What this author does well is suspenseful writing.  She has a great sense of pace and had me sitting on the edge of my seat towards the end of the book.  In fact, it was so suspenseful that when I was reading the last quarter of the book while Boy 1 was in the dentist chair getting his teeth sealed, I was kind of hoping his appointment would take a little longer so I wouldn't have to interrupt the suspense.  Bad Mom Grade: C,  Good Suspense Grade: A.

Another aspect of this book that I found really interesting was seeing the disturbing view of the inner workings of cults and their methods to recruit and keep their members.  We've all heard of these cults who manipulate people to join them and use psychological methods to control them.  Stevens' brings these issues to the forefront and it makes for an interesting, yet oh so very disturbing read.   

Like with her second book, "Never Knowing", I still had some issues connecting to the main character.  Nadine was Stevens' typical pushy woman but, fortunately, not so much that it was annoying (as in her second book).  But she was still a hard character to get behind.  I just don't seem to love Stevens' main characters.  I root for them and there's suspense but there's always something about them that I can't quite put my finger on that makes them feel a little out of reach emotionally. 

Perhaps it's just Nadine's personality that I didn't love.  She definitely isn't a clich├ęd character.  She has her own demons stemming from her severely dysfunctional family growing up.  She also struggles with being a widow and the mother to a child who is very much in trouble and issues that she begins to unearth about her youth at a commune that still affect her today.  While some of the revelations about Nadine's past weren't jaw dropping it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book and the suspense was held at a pretty high level until the very end.

These issues/revelations are brought to Nadine's attention, via flashbacks, as Nadine tries to help her patient, Heather.  Unfortunately, in order to deal with her issues she has to investigate the commune and confront its evil leader, Aaron.  Aaron is a great 'bad guy'.  He's brilliant and truly evil and knows which buttons to push to get people to do his bidding or to make Nadine squirm (or this reader for that matter whose stomach was in knots as I read some emotional scenes from Nadine's past).  He was creepy and brilliant ... a wicked combination for a literary bad dude.  This guy brings the term 'evil genius' to a whole new level.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for the suspenseful read that it is.  I'm thrilled that, once again, Chevy Stevens is a proud Canuck and centres her story in the beautiful BC area.  Got to love some good ol' Canadian pride!


My Rating: 4/5 stars

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