Frightful Friday: The Watcher by Charles Maclean

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. The featured book this week is The Watcher by Charles Maclean:

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143122517
  • Source: Publisher

Martin Gregory rushes to catch the train home. The following day is his wife’s birthday and he has a lot to prepare before then. He and his wife are the typical couple, living the average suburban life. Until the following morning…

Martin wakes to present his wife with her birthday gift, but what she finds instead is so appalling and disturbing she’s worried about Martin’s sanity. Meanwhile, Martin has retreated to a remote motel, experiencing random bits of consciousness, not certain just what has transpired. When he learns what he has done, however, he is truly mortified. He agrees to start seeing a therapist, Dr. Somerville.

The narrative that follows is a winding, spiral into the deep recesses of Martin’s mind. Told in alternating viewpoints of Martin himself and Dr. Somerville, the reader watches as Martin regresses into deeper and darker shades of madness. Dr. Somerville uses regression therapy and hypnosis to step inside Martin’s subconscious, revealing the truly horrific madness that lives within. The differing viewpoints are quite stark, leaving the reader questioning whom they should trust and believe: a mad man or a manipulative doctor? Martin’s spiral into madness is quite rapid, yet at some points his character seems so “normal” and believable. Additionally, Somerville appears to be attempting to help treat Martin, but it’s not difficult to see him in a darker light.

Originally published in 1982, this truly phenomenal piece of psychological horror was recently republished to the delight of Maclean’s fans. It is a novel that will leave readers questioning everything they read, a truly dark exploration into the mind of madness. A warning: there are scenes that are relatively dark and disturbing, particularly if you are a dog lover. These take place in the early pages of the book and serve to prove the intensity of Martin’s (potential?) madness. The pages that follow delve more into psychological aspects of horror and madness rather than the physical gore. Therefore, if you can get past the first several pages, you will be rewarded with a truly astounding novel, a story that has an intensity to survive decades.  Highly recommended.

Following is a review from the original 1982 release, proving the timelessness of this novel: NY Times

One thought on “Frightful Friday: The Watcher by Charles Maclean

  1. Girl you gotta stop sharing these creepy books with me!!! I just finished Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, have you read? Omg I listened to audio…such an ending!!

    Happy 3 day weekend.


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