Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 1st March 2017
REVIEWED BY ELAINE
A copy of We Are Always Watching was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Sinister Grin Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.
Hunter Shea’s We Are Always Watching hit all the right notes. It has a different flavor from the cryptozoological stories that the author is known for, yet the story is handled deftly. It contains psychological horror, as well as gore, and is a thought provoking read.
Following his father’s debilitating car accident, teenager West and his family move in with Grandpa Abraham. Grandpa is almost a stranger to West, as his parents had a policy of not making many visits back to the old homestead. One thing that perks West’s interest is the fact that he is moving into a haunted house.
At first, West is rewarded with creepy noises emanating from the basement. The house is indeed haunted by the memories of his Aunt Stella, who died as a young girl, and his grandmother – who should have been nominated for sainthood after living with curmudgeonly Grandpa Abraham. But memories don’t scream, and something in the house seems to be screaming. As a horror fan and budding paranormal investigator, West is excited about the possibility of confronting the paranormal. Then, he starts seeing the messages left by the omnipresent Guardians.
The first message is in his new bedroom: “We See You.” West and his family are immediately made vulnerable to the Guardians. All families contain secrets, and West learns that being victimized by the Guardians is his. While the messages begin as simple words and warnings, the threat level rises until all of the main characters’ lives are in danger.
Shea wisely uses loss of security as a plot thread. West’s dad is never the same following his accident, and his mom has to commute a long distance for her work and is therefore not as available as before. West is separated from his best friend and alone in a house and area that is unfamiliar and uninviting. This feeling of having lost support systems, and of feeling physically and psychologically isolated, propels the tension. It also runs a clean parallel with the actions of the Guardians. West’s family is unable to report the assaults and, because the Guardians are anonymous, unsure of how to fight back.
Shea controls the tension like a pro: it builds with the perfect pace and is relieved by scenes of West’s idyllic jaunts into sun kissed cornfields with nubile neighbor Faith. Growing up in the farmlands of Pennsylvania, I appreciate the way Shea depicts the fields as both inviting and foreboding, depending on the time of day and heat or lack thereof.
The characters are realistic. While West and his parents are sympathetic, no one is infallible. A reader can understand how they each perpetuate the danger they are in, without feeling judgmental. Hats off to Shea for making West’s mother, Debi, a fully realized character with relatable emotions and motivation. Too often stories portray a wife or a mother as simply a character defined by her relationship to others. Debi is certainly responding to the effects of a power shift in her marriage, but she is not solely the product of that.
I truly cared about the family in this book and was deeply concerned for and afraid of their torment at the hands of the Guardians. I especially felt a connection to West, perhaps because of my own use of horror stories and movies as a security blanket. Even Grandpa Abraham grew on me. While I might not want him in my own family, I understood how he became so angry and defeated.
There is nothing more satisfying than reading a horror novel written by someone with a knowledge of, and appreciation for, the genre’s history. Shea made sure that West is well-schooled in both the classics and the contemporary. There were plenty of novel, film and music references to keep a purist satisfied.
Without giving too much away, the ending was cogent and gratifying for a reader. I was taken pleasantly off guard by some unexpected twists. The novel is thoroughly engaging. I had to force myself to put it down so I could get my allotted six hours of sleep a night.
I highly recommend We Are Always Watching and plan to re-read it now that I know which of Shea’s tricks to look for.
★★★★★ a novel that horror fans will love
If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy We Are Always Watching or any other books from Hunter. This not only supports us but also lets us know how many people actually like to buy books after reading our reviews.
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.
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS HUNTER SHEA
Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself.
Publishers Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER one of the best reads of the summer in 2014, and his follow up novel, HELL HOLE, was named best horror novel of the year on several prestigious horror sites. Cemetery Dance had this to say about his apocalyptic thriller, TORTURES OF THE DAMNED – “A terrifying read that left me wanting more. I absolutely devoured this book!”
Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. Copies of his books, The Montauk Monster and The Dover Demon, are currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME.
He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years.
Hunter is proud to be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light-hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, crytid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane.
Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.
And for more about Hunter, visit his site or find him on social media: