Dr. Nadine Lavoie, a Victoria psychiatrist, has spent her life helping others come to terms with their demons, but now she must confront her own. Nadine is claustrophobic, though she doesn’t remember the incident that triggered her condition. She suspects her phobia is linked to time spent in a commune when she was younger, but her inquiries only strain her already tense relationship with her family.
One of Nadine’s suicidal patients was a resident at the same commune and has recently broken free from the thrall of its magnetic leader, Aaron Quinn. At first, Nadine wants to stop treating the patient, feeling her experience hits too close to home. But Nadine’s past refuses to stay buried. As her fear of close spaces intensifies, she begins to see her patient as a mechanism to unlock her own memory.
In her new thriller, Vancouver Island author Chevy Stevens allows information about Nadine’s past to trickle out – her addict daughter, her difficult home life – while steadily increasing the tension surrounding Aaron and his commune’s activities, leading to Nadine’s breakthrough about the trauma she experienced there. Always Watching doesn’t linger on Nadine’s ordeal, however, leaving the full extent of the abuse to the reader’s imagination. Stevens manages to keep Nadine’s story visceral without being exploitative.
Nadine’s search for justice is complicated by the passage of time, recanted stories, threatening phone calls, and Aaron’s reputation as a trusted spiritualist and businessman. Nadine is presented as a complex character: she is a professional healer who can’t seem to help herself or her daughter, yet even through her terror she remains clinical in examining the nature of her phobia. You wonder how Stevens will pull this tightening spiral to a close, but her unadorned prose is effective at drawing the reader along. Always Watching is a relentless thriller, pushing ever forward to the book’s final, cathartic release.