The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.
The Shadow Friend (published as The Shadows in the US) is the most recent standalone thriller from Alex North, author of The Whisper Man.
The narrator, Paul Adams, left his hometown of Gritten twenty five years ago after the ritualistic murder of his friend, a murder that he was questioned about. The main suspect, fellow student Charlie Crabtree, disappeared afterwards and hasn’t been seen since. Charlie is now an urban legend because of his interest in lucid dreaming and his belief that he could leave his body and control his dreams. Twenty five years later, somebody claiming to be Charlie has surfaced online and there has been a copycat murder. Detective Amanda Beck, who also appeared in The Whisper Man, is investigating this copycat murder in a neighbouring town and comes to Gritten after she finds out about the original murder twenty five years ago.
The book shifts between Paul’s narrative set in the past when he was at school and in the present when he reluctantly returns to his hometown because his mother has dementia and has been put into a hospice. This is a dying town in which Paul must confront his past and the guilt he feels for the choices he made. His return to his childhood home brings up memories of his community and it soon becomes clear that his mother knows more than he thought about the murders and about the whereabouts of Charlie. Charlie is a shadowy figure and we only catch glimpses of him from Paul’s perspective. Paul’s narrative is contrasted with Amanda’s who provides a more investigative perspective. Yet neither knows the exact nature of what they are dealing with.
North is one of the best authors in recent years at blending the horror and psychological thriller genres. With suggestions of ghosts as well as the ability to leave our bodes, Paul begins to question his own sanity and memories as he tries to find out what happened to Charlie. The result is a creepy narrative with some truly satisfying reveals.
Michael Joseph, 9 July 2020
About the author
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 a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is being published in more than 30 languages.