Audiobook Review: The Shadows by Alex North
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (July 7, 2020)
Length: 9 hrs and 5 mins
Narrators: Hannah Arterton, John Heffernan
As someone who had mixed feelings for The Whisper Man, I’m pleased to say The Shadows worked better for me on almost every level. Alex North has ratcheted up the atmosphere, the spookiness, and the originality, and it definitely shows on every page.
The story follows Paul Adams, who returns to his hometown after receiving word that his elderly mother had taken a bad fall and will not be long for this world. It has been twenty-five years since he’s been back—twenty-five years since the heinous murder that shocked the small village, leaving deep scars on Paul’s soul. But it’s been so long now; he’s trying to put the past behind him and forget. Plus, his mom, who also has dementia, desperately needs him to be there in her final moments.
Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself. Not long after Paul’s return, the town is rocked again by news of a copycat murder, forcing him to relive memories of the brutal ritualistic killing that took the life of his childhood friend. Thing is though, not only had Paul been close to the victim, he was also friends with the perpetrators—and one of them, the ringleader of the group named Charlie Crabtree, was never brought to justice because he vanished without a trace following the incident. A disturbed teenager, Charlie had been known to exhibit a dark imagination, violent and extreme views, and a manipulative personality—a deadly combination. He’d also had some strange beliefs about the supernatural and lucid dreaming, which made his mysterious disappearance all the more unnerving. Paul thought he had gotten away from all of that, but now his mother, her mind slipping away, keeps raving about Charlie and something in the house. While it’s the last thing Paul wants to do, he knows he must reopen old wounds and bring some of the worst memories of his past to the surface if he is to find some answers.
Wow, so where do I start? The Shadows was intense. I enjoyed the first half of the book, which gradually ramped up the mystery and suspense. The author managed to accomplish by weaving together past and present, delving into Paul’s memories of his youth through flashbacks. Through these, we got to learn more about Charlie, whose every act and utterance gave me the creeps. He’s the sort of kid you’d expect to make headlines one day, and definitely not the good kind. As a result, readers will be disturbed but probably not all that surprised when what he did is revealed, though I’m guessing for many the true horror will be in the leadup. Charlie had some pretty wild ideas about dream states and being able to cause certain things to manifest in the real world, and the more he tried to push his plans on Paul and his friends, the more this sense of dread increased.
Meanwhile in the present, we also get to see the story unfold through the eyes of local detective Amanda Beck, who becomes interested in Paul after linking his involvement with Charlie Crabtree to the recent copycat murder in a nearby town. Admittedly, other than the fact she was a character in The Whisper Man and that her investigation provided a “crime drama” element to the story, I didn’t really see why her POV was needed…that is, until closer to the end. And if the first half of the book was good, the second half was even better. There are twists galore, some of them even more heartbreaking than shocking.
In terms of criticisms, any time you are dealing with multiple timelines, things can get a little bit muddled. Throw in lucid dreaming, and the potential for confusion is even greater, though to be fair, I some of this vagueness was by design, creating perfect opportunities for the author to drop unsuspecting plot bombshells on us. All I’ll say is well played, Alex North, well played.
All told, The Shadows was a satisfying read. As a mystery, it’s more of a slow-burn, though the mood and intensity was off the charts. And while the story is more dark and unsettling than truly creepy, there’s also a touch of the supernatural which is also just vague enough that it will make this novel appeal to a wide audience. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a well-balanced thriller-mystery with lots of atmosphere, and I’m excited to see what the author does next.
Audiobook Comments: I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the audiobook of The Shadows, narrated by Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan, who read Amanda and Paul’s chapters respectively. Unsurprisingly, as both are accomplished theater and screen actors, the voices in this audiobook were performed very well. I would recommend it.