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.

 

 

 

Friday Face Off : A Trick of the Eye

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

A trick of the eye – a cover that is more than meets the eye.

A lot of the new themes are open to interpretation which might make choosing the covers and seeing other’s choices very interesting.  I can’t stress enough that this is all about your own interpretation and hopefully this new open feel to the meme will bring a larger selection of books and covers.  It’s not supposed to be hard work, there are no rules, just enjoy yourself.

I had a couple of books in mind for this week’s theme but in keeping with my desire to keep using my most recent reads I’ve gone with The Whisper Man by Alex North. I enjoyed this one.  My review is here and I have The Shadow Friend lined up to read in July.  Here are the covers:

My favourite:

I like the first cover with the butterfly that when you look closer is actually a handprint.  I also like the butterfly with the skull – but I’m a little odd like that.  I think my favourite though is:

Whisperman2

On the face of it a butterfly wing but when you zoom in, bones and skulls are the substance of the wing.

Do you have a favourite?

I’ll be updating the list in order to include forthcoming events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share then let me know in the comments).  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know 😀

Next week – Moody – a cover that is atmospheric,

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ or one of your favourite covers) (I’ve added some new themes – some of these are slightly different, in order to avoid too much repetition I’m trying to make the themes more of a suggestion that everyone can interpret how they like.  

2019

10th April – Moody – a cover that is atmospheric,

17th April – out of focus – double vision or all a blur

24th April – Armour – ‘“Pretty armour doesn’t make a warrior.”

1st May – Canine – “And then there were cats, thought Dog.:

8th May – graphic novel cover – “Love belongs to Desire, and Desire is always cruel”

15th May – pink – as pink as cotton candy – any cover that is pink

22nd May – Sorrow – a cover that makes you feel sad

29th May – Silhouette – an island, a person, anything you like

5th June – Flight – any type of flight – to flee, to fly

12th June – The bodice ripper – exactly as it seems

19th June – Time – time waits for no one

26th June – Windows – windows to the soul?

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Shadow Friend by Alex North

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Shadow Friend by Alex North.  I enjoyed The Whisper Man so look forward to seeing what this author comes up with next.  And I love the description.  Take a peek:

TheShadowFriendIf it had happened to you, you would have run away too.

Twenty-five years ago, Paul’s friend Charlie Crabtree brutally killed their classmate – and then vanished without a trace.

Paul’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened. He’s never gone back home.

Until his elderly mother has a fall. It’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. His mother claims there’s someone in the house. Paul realises someone is following him. And, in a town many miles away, a copycat killer has struck.

Which makes him wonder – what really happened to Charlie the day of the murder?

And can anyone stop it happening again?

Expected publication : July 2020

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Posted On 24 June 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
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The WhisperI think the best way to start this review is to state quite simply that I loved The Whisper Man.  It’s really that simple.  It scared me and demanded my full attention and on one particular evening whilst I was reading (or devouring) it I completely lost track of the time and everything else going on around me faded into the background.  I was in my own little reading bubble, and when the bubble finally popped I found myself quite alone. The darkness had set in and I was the last one to bed.  So…., yeah, I had to turn the lights off and like a big girlie wuss I had a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.  This  involved me doing that mad dash thing where you have to switch off the light, run across the room, banging into various pieces of furniture with your big toe along the way, followed by an Olympian style dive onto the bed so that the monster underneath can’t grab you by the ankle, then finally cocooning yourself in your bed covers so that not a single piece of you is exposed and you’re nearly suffocating in the process. That, my friends ,is the effect this book had on me.  Reduced to a quivering scaredy-cat.  Did I mention that I’m a wuss though?

This is a thriller with supernatural elements.  The sort of thing though that can be explained away if you really put your mind to it – I’m not talking vampires and shapeshifters here.  More the hint of things.  Its an impressive debut and the main elements of the story revolve around every parent’s worst nightmare – the abduction of their child.

As the story begins we follow a young boy as he makes his way home alone.  Neil is a lonely boy, not entirely happy and prone to lash out on occasion. Strictly speaking he’s a little young to be making his own way home unaccompanied, but, it’s broad daylight after all.  Unfortunately Neil’s remote path home is being watched and he’s about to pay a terrible price for his solo journey.  Neil is abducted and two months later the police are no further forward in finding him.

Meanwhile, Tom Kennedy is about to move home with his 7 year old son Jake.  Tom’s wife has passed away and the family home holds too many painful memories.  He’s still trying to cope with the loss of his partner whilst also getting to grips with the fact that he’s now responsible for bringing up his son alone.  At the same time Jake desperately misses his mother and suffers nightmares about the day she died.  He seems to have acquired an imaginary friend and sometimes the exchanges between the two don’t seem altogether friendly.  So the two pack up and move to Featherbank.  What a wonderful name for their new home.  It sounds positively welcoming doesn’t it – comforting even – you’d think you’d be able to relax in a town called Featherbank and yet the harsh truth is that around 20 years ago this small town was home to a serial killer who abducted and murdered five young boys.  Known as the Whisper Man, because he lured his victims out at night by whispering through their windows, he has now been caught and imprisoned.  However, this latest abduction has brought back memories from the past, particularly as elements from the original case still remain open and haunt the detective who was in charge of the original investigation.

I think that’s probably enough to give you the general idea of what’s going on here.  Featherbank is haunted by it’s terrible past and still holds secrets, Tom is haunted by the loss of his wife and the guilt he feels about not being a good enough parent to his son and Jake is haunted by his imaginary friend and the memories he’s trying to avoid.  It’s only a matter of time before things start to unravel.  Secrets and lies have a way of coming out – they want to be discovered.

Why did I love this?  It’s just an excellent combination of suspense and fear.  It’s one of those stories that has you holding your breath while you read – or wanting to hold a cushion in front of your face like you do when you’re watching a movie – everybody does that don’t they?  It gets off to a great start, the characters are easy to get along with and there’s this overall sense of menace.

There are a few different POVs which I thought worked really well here, you spend time with Tom, with his son and with two of the detectives and the thing is – all the characters are easy to like.  Tom and Jake are very quirky and are only just starting to form a meaningful father/son relationship, they’re both sad and they’re both holding back their feelings from each other.  The two detectives were also easy to get on with.  One a young ambitious female, keen to learn and desperate to find the missing boy and his abductor before it’s too late and the other a slightly jaded chap who struggles to keep the bottle and his own personal demons at bay.  They make a very interesting bunch to read about and I can genuinely say that I enjoyed all the different voices here.  No groaning or eye rolling here when the POV chapters switched.

The world building.  Well, this is a modern world so there’s no need for extensive world building really.  I liked the easy way that Featherbank is brought to life though and also the cunning way that the author actually makes you realise that you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors.  It’s a bit of a chilling thought which I really wish hadn’t occurred to me – but now it’s in my head so I thought I’d share it with you – you’re welcome.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I guess there’s a few cliches thrown into the mix – but nothing that was out of control or spoiled my enjoyment.  I think the ending was a little bit sudden – but then I think that’s a feeling I quite often experience so I’m starting to think that’s a ‘me’ issue really, maybe I’m a bit greedy and always want more.

Overall though, I can’t fault this.  It was a gripping read.  There were certain vibes that other readers will no doubt pick up on – can I just say Silence of the Lambs and Sixth Sense – but, at the same time, let me stress that those are really red herrings because this book is nothing like either, more it has whispers of them (see what I did there!)  Do I recommend this – oh yes.  I hope I’ve not oversold the scary factor here – I know die hard fans will probably take this in their stride but I can genuinely say that this scared me and I definitely advise readers to pick it up during daylight hours. And, on the other hand, readers who are easily scared – well, I’m easily scared too and I thought this was just great so I think you will too.

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

Rating : 4.5 stars out of 5.