Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: NEVER KNOWING by Chevy Stevens

NEVER KNOWING by Chevy Stevens (Allen & Unwin, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Canadian author Stevens stormed onto the crime writing scene with her excellent debut, Still Missing, and has now followed that up with another cracking psychological thriller, Never Knowing.

Sara Gallagher has always wondered why she was given up for adoption, and struggled with feeling different to her family. She often shoulders the problems of her world, blaming herself. She suffers migraines and pressure from her family and life. Now 33, she's found some happiness with her antiques restoration business and engagement to a wonderful man. Even if he spends too much time off in the woods.

But the question of who she is and where she comes from continues to niggle her; she's ready to find out. After months of research she locates her birth mother, only to face rejection, then discover an even more horrifying truth: she is a child of rape, her birth mother the sole survivor of "the Camp Killer", a serial killer still on the loose.

A man who has been hunting women every summer for forty years.

Shell-shocked by the unexpected turn of events, Sara turns to her therapist Nadine (who appeared in Still Missing) to work through what she's learned, wondering just how much she has inherited from her parents. Is the child of a psychopath destined to become a psychopath herself? Then her father reaches out to her, having seen the story of her search online.

Never Knowing is an absorbing, tense read from a fine author. Stevens utilises Sara's therapy sessions with Nadine as a device to deliver the story: with chapters being different doctor sessions. It's a different technique that could fall flat or take away from the plot and characters (and for some readers may well do so), but for me, Stevens uses it deftly, as first we're drawn into the character of Sara - a very intriguing women with lots going on beneath the surface - and then the thriller plot begins to ratchet up significantly in the latter stages of the story. I was hooked from early on, and although sometimes I wondered why characters were taking certain actions, it was all largely very believable within the world of the tale.

An imaginative and gripping tale which is as much about a woman's search for herself as the hunt for a killer.

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