The Shadow Friend by Alex North

Posted On 11 August 2020

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TheShadowMy TL:DR Five Word Review: Thriller with plenty of twists

The Shadow Friend was another very good read from Alex North.  I really enjoyed the Whisper Man and so when I saw The Shadow Friend I knew I had to read it and I’m so glad I did.  It feels like Alex North has plenty of fresh ideas and can spin a creepy tale that seems to border on the supernatural without ever actually crossing the line.

Shadow Friends is a book about murder.  Two school boys killed one of their classmates.  One of them seemed to disappear and one was brought to justice.  Another friend, not involved in the murder escaped the village and never came back until his mother was taken to hospital following a fall.

Paul Adams escaped his hometown following the death of a friend.  Twenty five years later his mother has suffered a fall and Paul travels home bringing back to the surface  unwanted and painful memories.  It appears that not everyone is happy to see Paul return and his steps seem to be shadowed.  Couple this with a new investigation following a copycat murder in a nearby village and you have the makings of a tense, chilling and mysterious story.

I really enjoyed this.  The tension practically oozes off the page and the mystery of it all held me fairly spellbound.  I simply had to know what was going on and the curiosity drove me forward at a fairly relentless pace.

To be honest, I thought the first half of the book was gripping.  We flip back and forth learning a little of Paul and his earlier years.  Charlie Crabtree is one of Paul’s friends, although I use the term loosely because Charlie is one of those characters that you just know is ‘one for the future’.  Charlie dominates the small group of friends and Paul is the only one to challenge his strange ideas of lucid dreaming eventually forcing Paul from the group entirely.  Which is probably something of a break given the turn things take.

Then the second half seemed to ramp the suspense up even more.

At the same time that Paul is mentally torturing himself about the past and feeling guilt over what he could have done differently, his movements are being shadowed, his presence in town isn’t welcome and somebody wants him to leave.  However, the investigation I referred to above is taking on a life of its own, the investigating officer has connected the dots and although this is clearly a copycat killer it seems that an online chat group could possible lead to the original perpetrator’s whereabouts being uncovered.  Charlie has taken on a dark cult status with a following that talks of the crime he commited.  Unfortunately, the new investigations seem to prompt a new round of killings – but, I’ll stop there because spoilers are highly likely and nobody wants a runaway blabbermouth now do they?

The characters.  Paul is likable and carries the story with ease – certainly to the extent that I found myself wanting to shout directions and instructions at him from the safety of my own living room like the cheap seats of a theatre (he’s behind you).  Charlie is a very easy to dislike character.  He’s manipulative and scheming and has a very dark streak.  The author does provide some history and a better understanding of Charlie’s motivations as the story progresses and this was a welcome inclusion that really helps to firm the foundations for events.

I enjoyed the setting.  We jump back to the school years with the bullying and awkward teenage boy moments.  There’s the forest that seems to back onto the boy’s houses and that takes on a life of its own with overgrown trails, snapping twigs and an overall ghostly atmosphere and there’s the overall creep factor which was here by the bucketload.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have much to say here.  I had a couple of little issues here and there but nothing that really merits mention.

On the whole I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read.  It’s dark and twisted – in fact, the main twist – omg – did not see that coming at all.  Then of course there’s a good number of other little twists but that main one – wow, what a sucker punch that was.

Chilling, riveting, creepy.  Another winning instalment by an author that I will definitely be keeping an eye on.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





14 Responses to “The Shadow Friend by Alex North”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I have yet to read anything by Alex North, but this one could very well be a starting point: the story sounds like the kind one has to consume in one sitting, if possible, because it would be next to impossible to put the book down 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It certainly is a gripping read. I’ve enjoyed both books so far and can’t wait to see what’s next.
      Lynn 😀

  2. sjhigbee

    Fabulous review, Lynn. I recall your enjoyment of The Whisper Man – and it’s clear this one has the same tension and strong charactisation. Thank you for sharing – and the book cover is stunning:))

    • @lynnsbooks

      I love the covers for these books, especially when you zoom in and see the chilling little details that at first glance you miss.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    I really need to try this author. Ugh there are so many authors I need to read!! lol.

  4. proxyfish

    Great review , Lynn! This sounds like a solid thriller. I’ve not read one in a while so I’m very happy to have recommendations 😄

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’m enjoying this author and this one definitely pulled me in with ease. Quite chilling and it really gripped me enough to make me read it almost in one gulp.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    At first I was confused until I remembered that in the UK this one had a different title! This really was a good read, wasn’t it…and yeah, agreed with the ending 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      And I was totally gobsmacked with that twist. It just never occurred to me.
      Lynn 😀

  6. jessicabookworm

    Ooo this sounds great, Lynn! It reminds me it has been too long since I read a really great, twisting thriller. Really must remedy that soon, especially as autumn is approaching! 😃

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh yes, the autumn nights are perfect for a good thriller – or a cosy mystery.
      Lynn 😀

  7. waytoofantasy

    Glad you enjoyed this one, Lynn! I haven’t read anything by this author yet but I will keep them in mind. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      He’s proving good so far is you’re in the mood for a murder mystery.
      Lynn 😀

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