‘The Shadows’ – Alex North

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this before publication, and for the author for scaring me rigid with this foray into darkness that goes way beyond my worst nightmares.

This is, by its nature, a complex tale with a large cast of characters and taking place over many years. It focuses on the discovery of a child’s body, almost decapitated, surrounded by bloody handprints. Two boys are taken into custody having confessed to the murder, and the Detective investigating has a strange feeling about this case.

There are, indeed, links with other events and we quickly switch focus to a lecturer called Paul Adams. I don’t want to give too much away here, but we first meet Paul as a teen when the police take him in for questioning in a murder. A mutual friend has confessed to the murder (a body almost decapitated and surrounded by bloody handprints), and another friend has disappeared. Paul is cleared of any involvement, but he feels guilt for some reason. Of course, we want to know why.

Over time we learn some of the circumstances surrounding this situation. We learn about Paul as a teen and his worries about the influence one of his peer group, Charlie Crabtree, has over others. Charlie is presented as a rather disturbed individual, certainly manipulative, but we’re never sure how much of this is a real fear. However, having never been seen following these tragic events this is a character we’re definitely keen to know more about.

Having returned to his hometown for the first time in years when his mother becomes ill, Paul is a character that I was never wholly certain wouldn’t suddenly be revealed to be completely unreliable. He’s hiding things, and some of these revelations will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

It’s not spoiling anything to say that our questions are answered and a number of mysteries are cleared up. There’s a certain amount of gore and yet my overwhelming feeling at the end was a sense of wistfulness for the many losses that took place through this story.