Audiobook Review: ‘The Shadows’ by Alex North

Paul’s attention is grabbed one day when the mysterious Charlie Crabtree steps and stands up to his friend’s tormentor at school. We’re used to the defender being the hero, but there’s something about Charlie that immediately presents us from seeing him as such, and what happens next suggests that Charlie may have knowledge of future events, and may even be able to control them. Paul and his friend are sucked in to a manipulative schoolboy power-play, which centres around recording their dreams. If you ever kept a dream diary as a teenager, looking for patterns and ‘messages’, then this will really take you back.

This is not, however, a schoolboy action novel, and ‘the murder’ is hinted at several times in the first half of the novel, although the nature of this crime, and indeed its victim, is not revealed until later on in the novel. This worked well – there was enough to get my head around in the early stages, with Paul’s past, and the story of Detective Amanda Beck, who is investigating a murder in the present. Predictably, the two crimes are linked, but whether the latest case is a copycat crime, and what happened to Charlie after ‘the murder’ takes a while to become apparent. It was a little confusing to have two timelines, 25 years apart, and two main characters, but they did quickly connect and it added depth to the narrative.

It’s characters are believable, even though the character of Charlie takes the believable to its extreme point. Charlie Crabtree, is a malicious, twisted and troubled boy. Not all boys like this turn to the types of manipulative behaviour that he is shown to, but the threat is always there. In contrast, Paul Adams represents the normal child, the one who is offered the temptation but sees the wrong and turns his back. I enjoyed watching how Paul acted as a teenager, and how these traits were continued as an adult.

The settings are familiar – we all have a dark wood that we found scary as a child, we all had places that we were warned not to go – and although the descriptions of setting where sometimes a little vague, my brain simply inserted my own scary places, and I think that made it all a bit creepier!

The current trend of the dual-narrative point of view again features in this thriller, and this was enhanced by it being read by two different voices, belonging to John Heffernan and Hannah Arterton – both of which I enjoyed listening to. Audiobooks can sometimes be spoilt by a reader who does not understand the novel’s tone or pace, or by those who feel the need to put on silly voices, or mispronounce unusual words, but these two sounded like they were telling me the story in confidence, and thus sustained by attention throughout.

I’d enjoyed reading ‘The Whisper Man’ last year, and found it difficult not to compare the two narratives. However, ‘The Shadows’ did not disappoint – if anything, it is creepier, darker and more worrying than its predecessor.

Thank you to NetGalley UK for allowing me a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

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