The first time I saw Heather Simeon, she was curled into a ball in the seclusion room at the hospital, a thin blue blanket tight around her, the bandages sharp white lines circling her wrists. – from Always Watching –
Dr. Nadine Lavoie’s job is to help people. She is a psychiatrist who ministers to the depressed, psychotic, demented, and lost people who arrive at the hospital despite being unable to help her own child who has taken to the streets to feed a drug habit. But when Heather Simeon is admitted after a failed suicide, Nadine is uneasy. Heather and her husband have been members of a spiritual group calling themselves River of Life, and as Heather begins to talk, Nadine is reminded of a dark time in her own childhood. Nadine’s memory is foggy of that time, there are gaps she can’t fill in and a fear of close spaces. And then Heather mentions the leader of the group – a man named Aaron Quinn – and Nadine’s blood runs cold. This is the same cult where she and her brother and mother spent time when Nadine was only a teenager. Compelled to uncover the truths behind the seemingly benign face of the group, Nadine begins to search for answers to what exactly happened to her as a child. Her quest will reveal her own dark secrets and help her reconnect with her wayward daughter – but will it be in time?
Always Watching is Chevy Steven’s third book featuring Dr. Nadine Lavoie. Penned in the first person, the novel is Nadine’s personal journey through despair, lost memory and dark secrets. While at times I felt the plot line to be a bit contrived, the tension in the story was well developed and it kept me reading. Several of the characters are not what they appear, and this aspect of the book allows for some twists and turns.
Nadine is a complicated character and not entirely sympathetic. She has made mistakes as a parent, spent more time helping her patients then being attentive to her daughter, and so she is humanized in the book as a woman who strives for excellence, but always seems to fall short. The unearthing of her childhood helps the reader to understand the psychological workings of a character who previously has felt a bit detached.
Chevy Stevens catapulted onto the literary scene with her first novel, Still Missing (read my review), and followed up in 2011 with Never Knowing. All three books include the character of Nadine, but only in Always Watching do we get to be inside this character’s head. It is not necessary to read the books in order.
Readers who enjoy dark, psychological thrillers may want to pick up a copy of Always Watching.