Under A Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill
When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal 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 which plague his every waking moment.
Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. 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 . . .
A new Adam Nevill book is always a cause for celebration here at The Eloquent Page. I am a relatively recent convert to his work, but every story I’ve read has been masterfully told. His latest novel, Under A Watchful Eye, is out now and it is another absolute corker.
Seb Logan is a solitary man. He writes fiction for a living and, for the most part, enjoys his own company. His rural idyll seems to be perfect. One morning while enjoying a leisurely stroll he spots a man who he hasn’t seen in years. The two parted company on less than amicable terms and Seb has zero desire to become re-acquainted with his “old friend”.
The dynamic between Seb and his stalker, Ewan, is particularly interesting. You quickly discover the true nature of their relationship, but rather than dispel the mystery that surrounds them it creates more. Seb’s initial reactions to his predicament are perfectly captured. His first thoughts being that he is some sort of breakdown. The person stalking him couldn’t possibly be who he thinks it is, and if it was, then how did they find him now after so many years. It must be a trick of his mind. All the old, half remembered details about distant family members who suffered from mental illness suddenly come rushing to the fore.
Unsurprisingly, there is far more to the story than that; let’s not forget this is an Adam Nevill novel after all. It turns out Ewan is only a precursor to the real horrors that are about to invade Seb’s quiet existence. Ewan may be a disruptive force in Seb’s life, but he is also intriguing. This shambolic husk of a man appears at first glance to be little more than a penniless vagrant, but the more time Seb spends with him the more he realises that Ewan has become something else entirely. Seb’s old roommate is involved with a shady group who explore the outer limits of pseudo-science and spirituality. Their enigmatic leader and their cult-like status appeals to the writer in Seb. Surely investigating them a little further couldn’t hurt? For a horror writer, the temptation to discover more inspiration for his work is too good to miss.
There is also wonderfully Inception-esque vibe to this novel. Spiritualism, astral projection and alternate planes of existence are just the tip of the iceberg. The narrative has some mind-bending twist and turns. If I am reading it correctly, Under A Watchful Eye is a story written by an author who is writing about an author, writing about an author who is writing about an author. If that doesn’t pique your interest and melt your brain at the same time, I don’t know what will.
Sitting somewhere between psychological horror and ghost story, I found Under A Watchful Eye to be a genuinely creepy experience. You don’t know what is going to happen from one page to the next. The thing I like most about Adam’s Nevill’s writing is the way it lulls you into a false sense of security and then pulls the rug out from under your feet. Up to a point, Under A Watchful Eye reads like a relatively straightforward tale. Seb is being tormented by his own insecurities and failings but then suddenly it transforms into something else entirely. I always enjoy when an author manages to confound my expectations like that.
Under A Watchful Eye manages to remain sinister and disquieting throughout. Nevill once again proves that he knows how to entertain and disturb in equal measure. I don’t think there can be a higher compliment that I can offer to an author of such compelling horror. My advice, do not under any circumstances read this book while you are on your own. Your mind is going to start playing tricks on you.
Under A Watchful Eye is published by Macmillan and is available now.