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Sara Gallagher is a 34 year old Canadian furniture restorer, who is finally content with her life living with her 6 year old daughter Ally and fishing expedition leader, Evan, the man she is about to marry.
Sara was adopted and although she didn't really have a bad childhood, she never felt totally happy, particularly when her parents went on to have two daughters of their own. Sara felt that her father showed more love towards his real daughters and this made her more and more curious as to who her own birth parents really were.
Finally ready to hear the truth, Sara sets out to find her birth mother and shortly afterwards discovers her mother is art-history professor, Julia Laroche. However, Sara's hopes of meeting her birth mother are dashed when after a phone call from Sara, Julia immediately hangs up after telling her not to contact her again.
Sara makes further attempts to speak to her birth mother who makes it clear she wants nothing to do with her, but also seems frightened by Sara showing up and won't give Sara any information about who her real father is, telling her she was drunk at a party long ago and can't remember.
Sara is sure Julia is lying to her and determined to find out more, enlists the help of a private investigator and quickly discovers that some questions are better unanswered as her real father turns out to be an infamous serial killer dubbed the 'Campsite Killer' who has been murdering women every summer for over thirty years and her mother 'Julia Laroche' is really Karen Christianson, his only surviving victim.
Sara soon realises that the only thing worse than finding out your real father is a killer, is him finding out that he has a daughter... and also a granddaughter...
I was given this book as a Christmas present and whilst not familiar with the author Chevy Stevens, the cover and the blurb on the back of the book captured my interest and I discovered that the author won the 2011 International Thrillers Writers Best First Novel award for her first novel 'Still Missing.'
'Never Knowing' was published in 2011 and is the author's second novel.
Never Knowing is an intriguing read which plods along at a steady pace throughout. Whilst the tension mounts as the story slowly builds towards its climax, the author manages to portray very well the character of Sara, as she tries to come to terms with finding out that her birth parents were not the ordinary folk she had imagined and dreams of a happy reunion are shattered. Instead, Sara finds herself and her family in danger, as circumstances following her discovery ultimately lead to her real father finding out about her existence.
I usually prefer thrillers to have more pace than this one with a few twists and turns, but now and then there comes along a thriller such as this, which will keep you turning the pages even though you have an idea how the story is going to pan out. What makes it interesting is reading how Sara has to learn to cope with knowing her father has been wanted by the police for his horrific crimes for over 30 years and the decisions she finds she has to make. Although initially horrified at the discovery of who her real father is, Sara finds that she can't help but be intrigued by this man and I felt that her emotions are described very well. Her character irritated me at times, but this book does make you think how you would feel and react if you discovered your father was a serial killer and this makes you sympathetic to her character, even when she makes some questionable decisions.
The chapters are interspersed with accounts of Sara's visits to a psychiatrist where she tells of what has happened since her last session and how she is feeling. The story is written entirely in the first person from Sara's point of view and I couldn't really understand why these 'sessions' were included, particularly as we never get to hear what the psychiatrist has to say, nor are we introduced. It does however provide insight into exactly how Sara is feeling, as she is not as honest when talking to Evan and her family and so these parts allow her character to develop, as she questions her genes and which traits she may have inherited from her father and therefore I found I understood her character more.
I also found the characters of Staff Sgt. Sandy McBride and Corp. Billy Reynolds interesting too. There seemed to be a little bit of good cop bad cop going on, but there was a twist at the end that I had not expected at all which was cleverly included. I think this may have been added as an element of surprise because as I mentioned earlier, the reader does have a rough idea of how this book will pan out and you are not really expecting any great twists from the story, as the suspense comes from Sara and her father and the intrigue as to how it will end, so I did think the twist was a good inclusion and the timing spot on as a 'just when you thought it was all over' moment.
The character of the serial killer was also interesting and instead of always being portrayed as sadistic and evil, the author allows you to see a gentler side of a man who whilst committing horrific murders and managing to stay on the run from the police, can also demonstrate a somewhat naive and caring side to his character.
I enjoyed 'Never Knowing' and apart from being a good thriller, it also examines the emotions experienced by an adopted child growing up wondering who their real parents are, as well as exploring how it may feel to be told by your sister that you were adopted because initially your mum and dad could not have kids, but then went on to have two daughters and so don't need you anymore? Plus Sara realises that her father certainly lavishes more love and attention on his 'real' daughters. Is it any wonder she wants to find her real father, only to then discover she is never going to have the father-daughter relationship she craves.
Sara's feelings and how she copes with all this is very well thought out and written by Chevy Stevens. Never Knowing is written to make you think and I found I was thinking about this one for quite some time after I turned the final page.