I feel like I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t yet read Alex North’s debut novel The Whisper Man (I’ll get to it eventually…), but when I saw his new book, The Shadows, was available on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it, knowing how well received his first book was.
The Shadows follows main character Paul Adams as he returns home to care for his ailing mother. He hasn’t been back in 25 years – not since he left for college and never looked back. There’s nothing but heartache and bad memories here, all centered on the murder of one of Paul’s friends at the hands of two of his other friends. One of those friends confessed immediately. The other was Charlie Crabtree, who was never seen again.
Paul has always assumed Charlie is dead, but in a neighboring town, Detective Amanda Beck isn’t so sure. She’s investigating a copycat killer which leads her to an online message board and a mysterious person who seems to know a whole lot about Charlie Crabtree and the original murder. Details only someone who was there 25 years ago would know.
The book alternates between Paul and Amanda’s perspectives, so we get to see the current case unfolding, as well as Paul reminiscing on the original murder. Paul is a likeable enough character but a bit daft and rather infuriating with his “woe is me” attitude. Amanda is wholly forgettable with no personality or depth. Her sections could have been left out completely and it wouldn’t have changed much.
As far as thrillers go, this one was mediocre at best. It’s one of those books where the mysterious bad guy turns out to be such an obscure character that it’s hard to care once the reveal happens. I didn’t find this book to be scary or creepy or “haunting” at all, as the publisher described. The urban legend surrounding the killings was interesting but unimaginative and rather predictable. And because the online message board aspect plays a large part in the book, there’s a lot of explanation about how message boards and technology work. I mean, a lot. As a millennial, I kept rolling my eyes at what felt like super detailed explanations for pretty standard technology. It jolted me out of the flow of the story because it was just so much.
I listened to the audiobook, which I thought was well done. Macmillan Audio is always top quality and the narrators, John Heffernan and Hannah Arterton, did a great job with what they were given to work with. Heffernan especially really kept the suspense going in a subtle, understated way that kept me listening even though I wasn’t really into the story.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Book cover image courtesy of Celadon Books.