Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: "Shadow Man" by Alan Drew

Shadow Man begins with the somewhat-paranoid musings of a person as they set out to murder a woman who is alone in her home, cooking dinner and unaware of what fate is about to befall her. When police detective Ben Wade is called by a friend to assist with the murder investigation, it's not long before all involved realize that Southern California might have a serial killer on their hands, one with a penchant for strangulation, for slipping through screen doors and unlocked windows.

While the prospect of a serial killer has everyone on edge, it's another death that sends Ben reeling. The body of a teenage boy is found in a field, and most signs point to suicide as the cause of death. But as Ben and his longtime friend Natasha, a forensic specialist, begin uncovering clues to the boy's identity, the life he led, and the secrets he kept, Ben's carefully compartmentalized life begins to shake. He's starting to wonder if it was wise to return to his hometown, Rancho Santa Elena, and all of the history that it held for him.

As Ben and his colleagues try to stop the serial killer before he strikes again, Ben tries to find answers in the boy's death as well, answers he might regret finding or deny seeing. But while he's trying to do his job the best way he knows how, he's also dealing with his own family crisis, as he realizes his teenage daughter Emma may be growing up faster than he is ready for, and he must tread a fine line between being concerned and overprotective.

Brooding and atmospheric, Shadow Man is as much a story of one man's battle with himself as it is a crime novel about a serial killer. And that's what surprised and delighted me so much about this book. Given how it began, I expected it to be your typical crime novel, with a fascinating yet flawed main character, and lots of intrigue around the killer and what made him tick. And while the book certainly has its requisite chase scenes and exploration of the killer, this is more a book about Ben and his past, and how what he tried to flee all those years ago is about to spill over and affect a lot of other lives.

The plot ultimately isn't surprising, but it doesn't matter. Alan Drew makes you care about his characters and makes you want to root for them, even as you watch them blunder and not always act in everyone's best interests. These characters are all the more interesting because of their flaws, their hearts and emotions, and the things they try to keep secret. This is a testament to Drew's storytelling ability.

If you go into Shadow Man expecting a police procedural or crime thriller, you'll be disappointed. If you go in expecting a well-told story with a good dose of crime, you'll be able to enjoy this book as much as it deserves to be enjoyed. There are a lot of interesting ideas explored, far more than your typical mystery.

NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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