Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Date of Publication: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Celadon Books
The haunting new thriller from Alex North, author of the New York Times bestseller The Whisper Man
You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.
It wasn’t just the murder.
It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…
I absolutely adore the plot trope of a person who returns home after being gone for years and solving a decades-old mystery. The Shadows takes this trope and runs with it, giving it a fresh new take.
Like The Whisper Man, this novel is eerie, bordering on horror, and it’s atmospheric while still fast-paced. As I read the novel, I noticed another similarity to North’s previous work. It’s very difficult to tell if there are paranormal elements at work, or if everything can be explained away by fact and reason. This questioning of what is real and what isn’t adds to the novel’s mystery, making it one of a kind, and a must read of 2020.
The Shadows has numerous surprising twists. One of them was quite shocking, but also required just a little too much backtracking and explaining to make it plausible. That said, the twists at the very end of the book were perfectly executed. The resolution was well thought out and I just adore a book that has plainly laid out clues that I should have noticed while reading.
I genuinely liked Paul, and I easily slipped into his head during the scenes written in his point of view. It was refreshing to see a vulnerable, imperfect character who isn’t intentionally written to be “unlikable”, which is so common in thrillers these days. He was far from perfect, but I didn’t feel the urge to reach into the book and slap him in the face, either. An ideal compromise.
Alex North writes with such a powerful prose that I got tingles while reading certain chapters, particularly towards the end as everything tied together perfectly and he revisited imagery that was introduced earlier in the book. While I’ve found that novels with dual timelines often lag during the flashbacks, North’s style made the past timeline just as compelling as the present day events.
I recommend this book to those looking for a spooky, almost-horror thriller about a decades old mystery that centres around a spooky small-town legend.
*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*
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