~ THE PLOT ~
FBI agent Smoky Barrett has recently suffered a horrific and unimaginable trauma which has left her thoroughly in turmoil regarding her career and overall outlook on life in general.
Unable to return to work for the last few months due to her personal grief, she now faces a new challenge. The start of a fresh case offers her the opportunity to test her courage and see if she really can get back to normality and resume her duties...something she finds extremely difficult because in essence, her job was at the root of her recent experience and is therefore the cause of her tragedy and current situation.
Somehow this new case is just too hard to ignore though and she can't refuse...
A truly horrific murder has been committed - quite obviously the work of a very sick and evil mind. It doesn't take long for the killer to make contact, informing the FBI that he's a descendant of Jack the Ripper. Not only that, he's decided that it's time to follow the lead of his ancestor...but with a modern day twist to his victim selection process and the methods used in his killing spree.
Through his constant communications it becomes apparent that this person is very clever and calculated and will continue to torture, rape and kill in a barbaric fashion until the day he is caught. The killer is taunting Smoky with his arrogant words, bragging about his crimes and revelling in his enjoyment of the thrill of the chase...reminiscent of Jack the Ripper and Inspector Abberline.
As his messages and calling cards become more and more personal towards Smoky and her team, they are left wondering just how close the serial killer actually is and how far he will go to gain their attention.
~ MY OPINION ~
Written in first person narrative from the perspective of Smoky (who is the main character), Shadow Man draws you in immediately. It successfully has the effect of placing you in the scene alongside her colleagues, causing you to get swept up in the investigation from the outset, eager to find out what could possibly happen next.
A feeling of compassion towards Smoky is inevitable. She is a very well written character, full of anger, pain and determination and with a remarkable mixture of strength and vulnerability, courage and fear. Throughout the investigation there are reminders of Smoky's past, emphasizing her personality. When the possibility of a link between the Jack Junior case and her own experience begins to emerge, the reader is left with a cold feeling.
Or should I say an even colder feeling! This book is chilling to say the least. Descriptions of Jack Junior's despicable crimes are gruesome and occasionally even upsetting. Combined with the simple manner in which the book is written (no fancy, unnecessary words), the result is a story which gets straight to the point, conjuring up graphic images in an instant. My imagination was running riot...you want to turn the pages but there is a surge of adrenalin and a slight hesitation in expectation and anticipation of what lies in the words that follow!
Shadow Man seems to be well researched and offers a good insight into investigative work and the methodical approach to catching a killer. It had me thoroughly gripped and engrossed in its pages. A few late nights were had as I vowed to read 'just one more chapter'. I couldn't wait to reach the conclusion and find out who the killer was and I could almost share the frustration and desperation of the investigative team as their shock and disgust at the killers methods was experienced. The despair and tension that this created amongst the team could be felt on each and every page.
Set in San Francisco and Los Angeles this book features quite a heavy handed American approach to policing - much different to the way some events would be handled in this country. Some police terminology is used in conversation but it is explained through Smoky's narration so you understand what they are referring to. In general the writing style is typically American in places but not annoyingly so. While we're on the subject of annoying...the term of endearment 'honey-love' is uttered so many times by a particular character that it's nearly enough to drive you insane!
There are so many 'catch a killer' type books around but in my opinion this one is so much better than a lot of the ones that I've read. It really is a superb debut from Cody McFadyen, a video games designer. Even the 'head investigator carries personal baggage' storyline is by no means a new concept (Clarice in the Hannibal series springs to mind) but in this case it is an element that works well, ties in perfectly with the story and the book wouldn't be the same without it.
I can honestly say that I liked this book so much I didn't want it to come to an end. You know that you're reading a good book when you can't wait to finish it...but don't want to finish it! I haven't felt like that about a book for quite a long time.
My immense enjoyment of Shadow Man led me to search on the internet to see if the author has since written anything else. I've found out that there is going to be a series revolving around Smoky and the second book, 'Face of Death', is due for release in May of this year. I can't help thinking that it's going to have to be something pretty special to match up to his first impressive effort but I'm looking forward to reading it and finding out!
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (May 2006)
Cover price: £10.99 (but my copy was a bargain from InStore - included in a set of 3 books for £5!)
Disturbing...promising debut...combines many conventions of the genre but with far more exquisite, intricate results than the norm...Packs a visceral punch.