I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING by Hunter Shea
Published by Sinister Grin Press on March 1, 2017
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Psychological Horror, Suspense
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They’ve watched over the house for generations…
The move from New York to the decrepit Pennsylvania farmhouse is as bad as West Ridley thought it would be. His father’s crippling vertigo only seems to get worse, and even with his mother working herself to the bone, they’re out of money and options.
Grandpa Abraham is a drunk bastard and the living embodiment of the long neglected farmhouse. He claims the place is haunted. Ghosts roam the hall at night and their muffled cries fill the silence of warm, summer nights.
On the ceiling above West’s bed are the words WE SEE YOU. In a house plagued by death and mysterious visitations, West realizes something beyond the fiction of his favorite horror books has to be faced.
Dark secrets are buried deep, and there are Guardians who want to keep it that way. No matter where they go or what they do, West and his family know one thing… they are always watching.
WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING, by Hunter Shea, is an absorbing, intensely character driven novel that I wouldn’t hesitate to classify as “psychological horror” at its finest! We begin with the Ridley family, Matt–nearly an invalid after a devastating accident several years ago, his wife, Debi, and their fourteen year old son, West. Due to financial difficulties, they have no choice but to move to the rural town of Matt’s unhappy childhood, and stay in the home of his father, Abraham.
“If ever a house was haunted, this was it.”
The rising tension that West felt between his parents lately was nothing compared to the unbridled resentment from his grandfather, at their intrusion into his life. The first thing he tries to do is convince West that the old farm is haunted–a notion West scoffs at until the odd noises begin . . . and then there are the words printed on the ceiling of his “new” bedroom: “WE SEE YOU”.
“. . . Was it the good, fun kind of creepy, or the crap your pants kind of creepy? The jury was still out.”
The character of Grandpa Abraham was, in my opinion, the most complex. On the surface, a drunken, cantankerous man with unfettered hostility towards everyone around him. Yet even early on, Shea gives the reader enough to realize that much deeper emotions are grounding the man, and his anger may be masking something else completely–something that has been around for centuries.
“. . . The land itself has been in our family for two hundred years . . . “
Trying for the sake of his parents, West is as confused as we are in deciphering the old man’s words and behaviors. The eerie, creeping sensation subtly builds for him (and the readers!) as notes begin popping up around the farm, reminding all that “the Guardians” are constantly monitoring their every move.
“. . . As for the other spirits, the remnants of bad energy . . . Were they watching him now? Of course they were. It said so on his ceiling.”
The novel’s pacing is deliberately steady, allowing for the dread to continuously escalate in the readers’ subconscious. Before long, I was jumping at nearly every noise along with the characters! For myself, the best part of the book was the “uncertain” element–the fact that they were constantly under watch, but having no idea who–or what–was the actual force behind it.
“. . . They say emotions can be left behind, just like spirits. These four walls have absorbed their fair share.”
Although Matt Ridley grew up with the knowledge of “the Guardians”, as soon as he was old enough to move away, he allowed his mind to believe that they were either long dead, or had moved on: “. . . Matt should have known better than to cling to hope. What was the point when it always let you down?” After literally having no choice but to relocate his family there, the overwhelming guilt over this, and the reasons behind their financial distress, give Matt’s character another side to his personality. He becomes a “real” person that we can, at times–pity, root for, encourage, and loathe–the entire gauntlet of emotions.
“. . . You got away once. I don’t know if they’re big on second chances.”
In the end, the dynamics of the characters continued to hold center stage in my mind. There are some dramatic revelations that I had never thought of, and a profound growth in the personalities of the entire Ridley family.
“. . . Perhaps evil didn’t have to make sense. It just was. It festered and survived by its own rules . . . what did that say about his family that chose to live among such evil? . . .”
Hunter Shea is an author who is not afraid to hold anything back, or to take his characters and tales into completely unpredictable positions. For this, he has earned my admiration and continued support in all of his writing. He is unconcerned with making “popular” or “unpopular” decisions for his creations, and this is just one of the things that I applaud him for.
WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING is a captivating tale of the unknown, the bonds of a family unit, and outside forces that push against the natural boundaries people have constructed.