I’ve been finding reading to be such a therapeutic space lately…. Under lockdown, working from home, kids at home…there is literally nowhere to escape to. Except a book. So my reading slump is hopefully over and I am enjoying spending time with my nose in my books at the moment. After finishing an amazing book last week….and then a kind of ‘meh’ book after that, I needed something solid. I hoped that The Shadow Friend would be that book. After LOVING The Whisper Man earlier this year, The Shadow Friend was one of my most anticipated reads for the year, so I was ECSTATIC when Penguin Books sent this my way. So was it a solid book?
What is The Shadow Friend about?
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…
Characters and Story line
The protagonist in our story is Paul Adams (who also shares a name with a South African cricket player from back in the day…useless trivia) who returns home after 25yrs to take care of his ailing mother. We also bump into Amanda again, from The Whisper Man.
The story is told in alternating timelines…before and now. In between we also have a few chapters from Amanda. In the past we meet Paul and his friends….and the events that lead up to Charlie murdering one of their friends. Off the bat, with Paul returning home and the event of a crime decades earlier….this reminded me of The Chalk Man.
In the present time, there is the discovery of potentially a copycat killer and Amanda trying to solve this crime. Also, figure out if Charlie could possibly be alive after all this time.
I love Alex North’s writing style and he did not disappoint. The Shadow Friend was dark, creepy and so suspenseful….so much so that I caught myself holding my breath quite a few times. I would end a chapter and then feel the need to just read one more… The shorter chapters also lends itself to you being able to read ‘one more chapter’. The book is broken into 3 parts, which again, I like, because if you’re a more structured reader, you will like having the book sectioned off.
There were a few twists that I saw coming, and then there were some that as usual, blindsided me. The pace of the book was good….though I felt that Paul fed us the information a lot slower. So a part of me feels the book could have been a wee bit shorter. Also, Paul is a little bit of an unreliable narrator, but I suspected as much. As with The Whisper Man, there are similar themes w.r.t. fathers and figures.
The ending….I’d say 98% of the book was wrapped up….but that 2%… I was still left with some questions. I don’t understand why Alex would have left us hanging about one of the main unknowns in the book.
The Shadow Friend has a Goodreads rating of 3.8 stars and I’m inclined to agree and rate it at around 4 stars. This was a good book and I think some reviews on Goodreads really criticized it….I don’t know why. The writing was solid, the storyline was solid and there were some good plot points. I think, because the pace was a bit slower, those twists perhaps didn’t have as much of a WOW effect when they landed, but they were still good twists. Will you be adding this to your book lust list?
The Shadow Friend (also titled ‘The Shadows‘) should be available at all retailers at around R310.
Disclaimer: The Shadow Friend was sent to me by Penguin Books SA in exchange for an honest review.