Wednesday, 24 June 2020

The Shadow Friend by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks #TheShadowFriend @Ells85 #BookReview




Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.
For Paul Adams, it's a day he'll never forget. He's never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He's never gone back home.
But when his elderly mother has a fall, it's finally time to stop running.
It's not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul's mother insists 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 afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .


The Shadow Friend by Alex North is published on 9 July 2020 in hardback by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Last year I read The Whisper Man by Alex North and have been shouting about it ever since. I was very excited to be able to read his latest novel, and also had a slight concern. Could he do it again?

He could, and he did. Once more this talented and very skilled author has produced a story that made me wake at night in a cold sweat, with vague feelings of being amongst 'the shadows' and wondering if I'd made myself go there, and been able to wake myself up. Dreams and dreaming have taken up so much of my head space since reading this novel.

Paul Adams has returned to Gritten, the small town that he was brought up in, and a place that he hasn't returned to for over twenty-five years. Paul's mother is terminally ill in a Hospice and the pull of that enduring mother-son relationship has finally brought him home. Paul has a ton of emotional baggage, memories that have haunted him for his entire adult life, and going home means that he will have to dig into those memories, and what he finds out will alter him forever.

When they were teenagers, Paul's friend was murdered. Killed in cold blood by two very troubled teenagers. The ring-leader Charlie Crabtree disappeared after the killing and has never been traced.
Gritten is a small place and Paul was closely linked to both the victim and the killers, he's always held himself partly to blame and has never been able to re-visit the town.

The story is structured very well; told from the point of view of Paul now, and also from the past. Detective Amanda Beck (who readers may recognise from The Whisper Man), is also a main focus of the plot, as she investigates the murder of a teenager; a case that bears some striking familiarities with the Charlie Crabtree case.

The Shadow Friend is a complex and chilling story. The author has created a sense of unease that never goes away. As Charlie coerces his friends to take part in his dream experiments, convincing them that they can have lucid dreams which can actually be real, the tension mounts.

This is crime fiction at its best. Alex North not only creates brilliant plots, his descriptive prose is quite wonderful. From the dark, forbidding woodlands, known locally as The Shadows, to the run down town streets; the sense of place is really quite eerie, conjuring up images that have stayed with me.

As in The Whisper Man, there are some beautifully detailed relationships within this book. The intricate and often fractious mother/son links are beautifully done along with the very toxic friendships that can develop between teenagers.

The Shadow Friend races towards an ending that took me totally by surprise. This is an ambitious story that is told incredibly well. It is dark, creepy and at times, a little bit terrifying. I found it really difficult to put down, and impossible to forget. Oh, and look closely at that cover, at the centre of the flower ... so so clever.





Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son.  He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department, The Whisper Man was an instant Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is an international sensation, with rights sold in 28 languages.
Alex's writing has been a smash-hit with reviewers, gaining praise from best-selling authors such as AJ Finn and major celebrities like Andrew Lincoln.
The Whisper Man has a significant Hollywood film deal with the Russo Brothers, directors of the Avengers series.







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