Monday, December 7, 2020

The Shadows - Alex North

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile--always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet--and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree--and his victim--were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It's not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there's something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn't just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again... (Summary and pic from

My Review:  Here’s the deal—I read a lot of books like this. I feel like if you’re into crime books, or even just one of those people who reads the most popular books and bestsellers at the time, you’ve probably seen this book. I feel like I don’t make it a point to read all of those because I pretty much know what I’ll get—the middle of the road not-too-bad but also not-too-great reading that is pretty interesting and catching enough that everyone will read it. They’re gateway drugs to the genre, books like these. You can read them without being totally committed to actually reading crime novels. They’re not as violent or shocking as, say, Jo Nesbo, but they’ll give you a thrill and your crime fix.

So that’s pretty much what we’ve got here. Alex North’s book The Whisper Man came out and was read by a lot of people. You can read my review here. It was decent and creepy, and so of course this is a natural follow-up. If you like one book you’ve picked up from an author, chances are you’ll like another one as well. That is why I picked this one up, but also because I’ve seen it a lot and it seemed like my kind of deal. I like crime books, and I like it when they take a little bit of a magical realism jump. Just on the edge of reality and not. Or maybe sometimes really on the edge.

 I wanted to like this book a lot. It definitely had some things going for it: creepy kids (there’s nothing creepier than creepy kids AmIRight?), altered states of reality, unexplained murder scenes, sparse details, etc. On paper it looked like it had a lot going for it. In reality, it was somewhat jumbled. There were concepts that were brought up but not really fully executed. I felt like it was confusing at times and also just under-delivered. I think maybe this is because North took on too much—there were a lot of elements to this story, and different characters in different places (and in different timelines, too)—and he just wasn’t able to pull it off. I don’t know if this would have been fixed if the story had been longer, but it’s almost like there were a couple of ideas going on and because of that none of them was executed as well as they could have been. That’s never a good sign, ya know? If a book is too jumbled and confusing, it just isn’t a pleasurable read. One of the things I like about crime books, especially mass market ones like this, is that they are easy and somewhat mindless to read. I can check out of my real life and dial into this alternate reality. No big commitments, no big decisions, no big deals, just check in and check out. I didn’t find myself really eager to get back to this book, and that’s a bad sign for me. Normally I’d read something like this in a day or two. But because it was disjointed, the pressure to ReadReadRead wasn’t there, and for me. Since that is one of the biggest reasons I picked the The Shadows in the first place, that’s a problem. I’m not expecting it to blow me away with its stellar writing or deep thoughts and life-changing insights. I just want to be entertained. If I’m confused and not that invested, I might as well move along to something else.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and violence in this book, some of it directed at children. If you read crime books, you’ll be fine.

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