The below is a flash review of the horror novel Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill. Enjoy!
The narrative is really split into two halves, both of which are extremely effective. The first half plays almost as a classic haunting horror, with the sudden appearance of main character Seb’s old friend. But once tragedy occurs, the second half kicks into a mix of research, choice and bizarre revelation and visions. It also ends in an unsettling manner. First rate.
There are few characters in the book, but the protagonist Seb and his strange old friend Ewan are beautifully fleshed out. They have a peculiar relationship that wavers between disgust, pity, anger and blackmail. The other characters are not so three dimensional but all serve a sinister purpose. The occasional appearances of ‘Thin Len’ are expertly done as well. He is a villain that we know little about and yet intensely fear.
In many ways, Under a Watchful Eye is classic horror in terms of its scares and atmosphere. But it is written to such a terrific level that the prose flows, shifts and races in myriad ways. I devoured the book quickly and yet there is hidden depth and philosophical and esoteric leanings. The premise of out of body experience is tried and tested, but this book takes it many steps further and gives it (quite literally) many more dimensions.
I thoroughly enjoyed Under a Watchful Eye as a piece of horror fiction, but also as something a bit more strange, and also as a narrative that teases its reveals and revels in unsettling dichotomies. Most of the horror is mind-orientated, which I usually find more effective, and Seb’s slow descent into an unfair and terrible situation fills the reader with empathy. Highly recommended.