Named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year by The Wall Street Journal
Detective Ben Wade has returned to his hometown of Rancho Santa Elena in search of a quieter life and to try to save his marriage. Suddenly the community, with its peaceful streets and excellent public schools, finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors at night, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the killer—and deal with painful episodes in the past—Ben’s own world is rocked again by violence. He must decide how far he is willing to go, and Natasha how much she is willing to risk, to protect their friendship and themselves to rescue the town from a psychotic murderer and a long-buried secret.
With fine, chilling prose, acclaimed author Alan Drew weaves richly imagined characters into the first of several thrilling novels of suspense featuring the California world of Ben Wade and Natasha Betencourt. Shadow Man reveals the treacherous underbelly of suburban life, as a man, a woman, a family, and a community are confronted with the heart of human darkness.
Finalist for the SCIBA T. Jefferson Parker Award • Named one of the Best Crime Novels of the Year by The Booklist Reader
“Smart, chilling, and impossible to put down.”—William Landay, author of Defending Jacob
“A stellar achievement, a book that unspools like a dark-toned movie in the reader’s mind.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A home run.”—Lee Child
“Superbly done: Wade, along with forensic expert Natasha Betencourt, are both indelible characters.”—Literary Hub
“The more you learn about Ben and his troubled upbringing, the more courageous the novel seems in exposing truths that most crime fiction doesn’t go near.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A descendant of Chandler’s The Big Sleep.”—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
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Emma was already up in the saddle. She sidestepped Gus across the gravel driveway, the horse’s hooves kicking up dust that blew across the yard.
“C’mon, Dad,” Emma said. “It’s getting late.”
Detective Benjamin Wade was hammering the latch back onto the barn door. When they came up the driveway in his cruiser fifteen minutes earlier, the door was slung wide open, the latch ripped out of the wood by the gusting Santa Ana winds. The winds had burst into the coastal basin midmorning, dry gusts billowing off the desert in the east that electrified the air. The morning had been heavy with gritty smog, the taste of leaded gas on the tongue. By early afternoon, though, the basin was cleared out, the smog pushed out over the Pacific. A brown haze camouflaged Catalina Island, but here the sky was topaz, the needle grass in the hills undulating green from early-fall storms.
“I’ll meet you up there,” Emma said, spinning Gus around and cantering him up the trail.
“Hold on,” Ben said. But she was already gone. He dropped the hammer, the latch swinging loose on a single nail. He pulled himself up onto Tin Man, raced the horse after her, and finally caught up to her on Bommer Ridge.
“You’re getting slow, old man,” Emma said, turning to smile at him.
“You’re getting impatient.”
“You want to be here as much as I do,” she said.
That was true. This was exactly where he wanted to be—in the hills, riding a horse, with his daughter. They rode side by side now, Emma rocking back and forth on Gus’s swayback. Tin Man snorted a protest, shaking his head to rattle the reins; the horse was getting too old for that kind of running, his cattle-rustling days well behind him. Gus and Tin Man were the last of the cutters. Four years ago, in 1982, when the cattle ranch officially shuttered the Hereford operations, they were set to be shipped off as dog-food canners. Ben wasn’t having any of that, so he bought them for the price of their meat and taught his daughter to ride.
The horses guided themselves along the fading cow path past the old cowboy camp, hooves flushing jackrabbits out of sagebrush clumps. He smiled and watched Emma, her thin back and wiry legs in perfect control of Gus. He wished his father could have met her; she was a natural on a horse, a cowboy in a place that didn’t need them anymore. They rode through a tangle of manzanita, the branches scratching their calves, and sidled through the shade of gasoline trees until they were in the open again, trailing the backbone of Quail Hill. A slope of poppies spread beneath them, blossoming orange into El Moro Canyon and down to the blue crescent of Crystal Cove.
One of the advantages of being a detective was the flexible hours, and when things were slow, as they mostly were in Rancho Santa Elena, Ben could pick up his daughter from school. He had done this for four years now, a reliable pleasure that continued even after the divorce was finalized a year and six days ago and he and his wife—his “ex-wife”—negotiated joint custody. Picking up was not a part of the settlement, but Rachel had stacks of papers to grade and when he proposed it to her she was thankful for the extra time. The added benefit of the gesture, too, was that sometimes Rachel gave him an extra night with Emma or let him take their daughter for horseback rides on weekday afternoons that weren’t supposed to be his. He savored every moment with Emma; he figured he had another year or two of these afternoons together, and then it would be all boys and cruising South Coast Plaza mall with her girlfriends.
“How was the algebra test?” he said, taking advantage of the moment.
“Shoot anyone today?” she said.
“Was in a gunfight over at Alta Plaza shopping center,” he said. “You didn’t hear about it?”
“I missed the breaking news.”
It was her daily joke; in the four years since Ben had left the LAPD and moved south to join the Rancho Santa Elena police force, he hadn’t discharged his weapon, except into the hearts of paper bad guys on the firing range out by the Marine base.
“How are you and Mrs. Ross getting along?” he said, hoping Emma hadn’t gotten in another argument with her ninth-grade English teacher.
“Equitably,” she said, another witty evasion. “Arrest anyone today?”
“Nope,” he said. “But there’s always tomorrow.” He’d driven down to the Wedge in Newport Beach at sunrise, bodysurfed a few windblown waves, and rolled back into town by 8:00 a.m. for his shift. He’d awoken a man sleeping in his car on a new construction site in El Cazador, checked his tags, given the man his fresh coffee, and sent him on his way. He’d run IDs on a psychologist he suspected of selling psychotropics on the side. He’d been called to a skateboard shop off Via Rancho Parkway to hunt down two eleven-year-old boys who’d absconded with new Santa Cruz boards. “Just borrowing them, dude,” one of the kids said, when he found them kick-flipping the boards at the local skate park. In master-planned Rancho Santa Elena, he was mostly a glorified security guard, paid to make residents feel safer in a place already numbingly safe—and both he and Emma knew it.
“How’s your mother?” he asked, hoping for a tidbit.
And there she went, standing in the stirrups, cantering Gus down the hill ahead of him. Rachel said it was normal, this pulling away from them—she was fourteen, after all—and he guessed it was, but it didn’t make him feel any better about it.
“Take it easy,” Ben called out to her. “It’s steep here.”
“Geez, Mr. Overprotective,” she said, reining the horse in and plopping back in the saddle.
He could feel her rolling her eyes at him, a condition that had worsened in the last year.
Emma kept her distance now, trotting Gus along the ridgeline, the two of them disappearing behind an escarpment of rock before coming back into view. Down into Laguna Canyon, Ben could see the stitching of pink surveying flags waving in the wind—the “cut here” line for the new toll road, if the environmentalists couldn’t fend it off. The flags followed an old cattle trail that led to the beach. On full moons, Ben and his father would ride the trail together in the shadows of the canyon, the hillsides rising milky white above them. This was the 1960s, before the developers had started bulldozing the hills, and the land was silently alive with owl and raccoon, with the illuminated eyes of bobcat. It was so wild back then that when a grizzly bear escaped a local wild-animal park, it took game wardens two weeks to hunt the animal down and shoot it in the darkness of a limestone cave. For thirteen days it was the last wild grizzly in California, making an honest symbol out of the state’s flag.
After two hours of riding one moonlit night, Ben and his father had reached Route 1, recently renamed the Pacific Coast Highway, a four-lane expressway zipping cars up and down the coast. They had to sit perched on their horses for five minutes, waiting for the blur of headlights to pass. “In ten years,” his father had said, bitterness in his voice, “everything will be goddamned concrete.” His father had lived out here since the Dust Bowl days, he and his family escaping a bone-dry Kansas in ’34, stepping off a coast-to-coast Greyhound into irrigated fields of orange groves. When he was ten, this was ranchland all the way down to the frothing surf, and he had spent his life watching it be slowly devoured. When there was finally a break in traffic, Ben and his father had nudged the horses across the cement until sand silenced the clipping hooves. They tied the horses to a gnarl of cactus and sat watching the bioluminescent waves crash the beach. It was the red tide, his father said—blooms of algae that sucked the oxygen from the water and flopped dead fish onto the beach. During the day the ocean was stained rust with it, but at night the foam of crashing waves glowed phosphorescent blue, swelling and ebbing bursts of light arcing down the coastline.
Ben and Emma reached the top of the hill now, the fledgling city of Rancho Santa Elena spreading beneath them in a patchwork of unfinished grids. Even when Ben was a kid, the basin had been mostly empty—a dusty street with a single Esso gas station, the crisscrossing runways of the Marine air base, a brand-new housing tract out by the new university, a few outlying buildings for ranchers and strawberry pickers. Now Rancho Santa Elena spread in an irregular geometry from the ocean to the base of the eastern hills of the Santa Ana Mountains, where newly paved roads cut swaths through orange groves. The center of town, the part of the master plan that was finished, looked vaguely Spanish—peaks of red-tiled rooftops organized in neat rows, man-made lakes with imported ducks, greenbelts cutting pathways for joggers and bicyclists. It was like watching a virus consume the soft tissue of land, spreading to join Los Angeles to the north.
A sudden screech, and an F-4 fighter jet roared above Emma’s head. Tin Man leapt backward, and Gus startled and bucked, losing his purchase on the rocky trail.
“Heels in,” he called out to Emma, as one of her hands lost grip on the reins.
Ben dug his boot heels into Tin Man’s flanks and the horse steadied, but Gus stumbled down the hill and Emma flipped backward, thumping solidly on her back in the dirt. Ben was off Tin Man, rushing to her, and by the time he was there she was already sitting up, cursing the plane and its pilot.
“Asshole,” she said, slapping dust from her jeans.
“You all right?” Ben said, his hand on her back.
“No.” She slapped the ground, her brown eyes lit with fury. “I want to kill that guy.”
“No,” she said, standing now. “Where’s Gus?”
“Don’t worry about the horse.” She had fallen before, of course, but his panic never changed about it. “Just sit. Make sure your ribs are in the right place.”
He touched the side of her back, pressed a little. She elbowed his hands away.
“I’m fine, Dad.”
She went to Gus, who was shaking in a clump of cactus, a few thorns stabbing his flank. She hugged the horse’s chest as Ben yanked the thorns out, points of blood bubbling out of the skin. The jet swerved around the eastern hills, dropped its landing gear, and glided to the tarmac.
“Asshole,” Ben said.
“Yeah,” Emma said, smiling. “Took the words right out of my mouth.”
It was nearly dark when they got back to the house, the western sky a propane blue. Emma walked the horses past his unmarked police cruiser and into the barn, and Ben retrieved a Ziploc bag of ice from the house and tried to hold it to Emma’s back.
“Thanks, Dad,” she said, hoisting the saddle off Gus, “but I’m fine.”
He let her be and they worked their tacks alone, the rushing sound of the 405 Freeway in the distance.
Ben’s house was in the flats on the edge of the city, down a dirt road that ended at a cattle fence that closed off Laguna Canyon and the coastal hills, a patch of wilderness, and the last of the old ranch. The place was a low-slung adobe, set in a carved-out square of orange grove—his father’s house, a cowboy’s joint, the house Ben had lived in until he was eleven. Emma had dubbed it “Casa de la Wade” three years before and the name stuck; they’d even fashioned a sign out of acetylene-torched wood and nailed it above the front door. When he and Rachel had moved back here from L.A. four years ago, they spent the first year in a rented apartment near the new university. He would drive out every once in a while to look in on the old place—the windows boarded up, the barn roof sagging. He had asked around at the corporate offices of the new “Rancho,” out by John Wayne Airport. Some of the suits remembered his dad from back when it was a working ranch, not a corporation with valuable real estate to sell, and out of respect to his father’s memory they let him have it for a moderately inflated price. The house and its acre of land hadn’t then been part of the town’s master plan; it was in the flight path of the military jets, and the Marines had wanted at least a quarter-mile perimeter of open land surrounding the runways in case an F-4 bit it on approach. The feds, though, had recently decided to close the base, and suddenly the Rancho Santa Elena Corporation zeroed in on the surrounding land. Letters from the Rancho’s lawyers had already offered him 10 percent over market value for the place. He had written back and simply said, Not interested, though he knew they wouldn’t give up so easily. The Rancho had already declared eminent domain to bulldoze artist cottages in Laguna Canyon. It had its sights set on the old cowboy camp at Bommer Canyon, too, just up the hill from Ben’s place.
It took a year of evenings and weekends, one hammered broken finger, and a nail through the arch of his right foot to get the place in shape, though mostly it remained a cowboy flophouse, stinking of leather and coffee grounds, and he liked it that way.
Ben forked hay into the barn stalls now, while Emma cotton-balled Betadine onto the cactus cuts on Gus’s flanks.
“You ready for softball?” he asked.
“I’m not going to play this year.”
“You love softball.” She had an arm; she could whip it around in a blur and pop the ball into the catcher’s mitt.
“You love softball,” she said.
“You look at those girls in high school and they’re all, I don’t know, manly.”
“Manly?” he said. His tomboy little girl had a sudden need to be “pretty.” She’d started spending hours in the bathroom, rimming her eyes with eyeliner, thickening her lips with lipstick. “There’s nothing wrong with those girls.”
“I just don’t wanna play anymore, all right?”
“I gotta talk with your mother about that,” he said, glancing at her. Her face was tanned, her dark hair sun streaked. “And, by the way, you’re perfect, if you ask me.”
“Yeah, well, you’re my dad, so it counts like forty-five percent.”
Emma finished with the Betadine and closed Gus up in his stall. They had a big dinner planned—carne asada tacos, fresh avocado from the farmers’ market, corn tortillas he’d picked up that morning from the tortilleria in Costa Mesa. Back to the Future had just come out on VHS, and he’d already slipped the cassette into the VCR.
The Motorola rang in the cruiser. He stepped over to the car and leaned through the open window to grab the receiver. “Yeah, it’s Wade.”
“Been trying to get you on the horn.” It was Stephanie Martin, the evening dispatch.
“It’s my night off.”
“Hope you enjoyed it,” she said. “Got a call from a Jonas Rafferty down in Mission Viejo. They got a DB down there that’s still warm. He’s asking for you.”
A dead body. It had been a long time since he’d been on a murder scene.
“Gotta get you to your mother,” Ben said to Emma.
“What about Fiesta Night?”
“Friday,” he said, latching up the barn door. “We’ll do it Friday. I’m sorry.”
“You need a nine-to-five, Dad,” Emma said.
Reading Group Guide
1. Through the serial killer’s need to create his own language, we are introduced to the dilemma of one’s need for a voice. Did any of the characters gain his or her voice over the course of the narrative? How did voicelessness affect some of the characters and their relationships?
2. How does water/swimming figure in Ben’s life? (Discuss what water represents in regard to solace, safety, and powerlessness.)
3. What does Shadow Man’s setting lend to the plot? Or, how does the setting affect the plot? What senses are stirred in descriptions of the setting, and how is suspense built?
4. How does the author’s narrative strategy of revealing the serial killer’s thoughts affect your perception of the killer?
5. How does the theme of loss of innocence factor into the novel? What characters do you think were most affected by a loss of innocence?
6. Shadow Man engages many tropes of the thriller genre, while also pushing into literary fiction territory. Do you think this book is or is not a thriller? In what ways does it adhere to the tropes found in typical thrillers and in what ways might it diverge from and/or comment on the genre?
7. This book explores various forms of fear, particularly communal and private fear. Talk about how fear is used as a tool of terror in the novel and about the effects that terror has on the individual and the larger community as a whole. Also, talk about the ways in which private terrors are different from communal ones. Are the effects of one perhaps more devastating than those of the other?
8. Shadow Man also touches on the themes of power and powerlessness, vulnerability, and exploitation. In what ways do the powerful exploit the vulnerable in the novel? What kinds of power do you see at work here, and what effects do they have—both negative and positive? When is power used for good in the book, and in what ways is it used for ill purposes? Also, are there ways in which the lines between perpetrator and victim get blurred in the novel?
9. Why does Ben keep his own secret hidden for so long? What finally causes him to confront his dark past? What effect does his silence have on his own life, his family’s, and his coworkers’?
10. In current popular culture, the detective is the new cowboy. As with the image of the cowboy in the early-to-mid-twentieth century, fictional detectives are often endowed with the qualities of masculinity deemed most valuable by society. This book, in many ways, is an investigation of masculinity—the strengths and weaknesses of the constructed concept of maleness. In what ways does Ben’s experience—and perhaps Natasha’s as well—attempt to confront problematic and perhaps destructive elements in our ideas about what makes a “man.”
11. The book suggests that we, as a culture, think about male victims of abuse differently than we do female victims. Discuss the reasons for this difference offered in the book—by both the victims and the community. Do you see any uncomfortable instances of conflation?
12. The book also brings up the subject of denial—both personal and communal. Discuss the various forms of denial portrayed in the novel and the fears or needs that feed them.
13. While Shadow Man was influenced by both the Night Stalker and Golden State Killer murder sprees, it was also inspired by the Penn State sexual abuse case. The book is an investigation into a series of murders, but it is also an investigation into a place and time. What insights might the book offer about the ways communities deal with their own dark secrets?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 stars When I read the publicity blurb for this book, it immediately ticked all the boxes for me. Thriller? Excellent. Set in the 1980’s? Cool. Compared to Dennis Lehane? Hand it over. But….despite an eek-inducing prologue, what we have here is a book that is being marketed to appeal to thriller fans which IMHO does a disservice to the author. This is a beautifully written story about a broken man trying to come to terms with his past. He just happens to be a cop involved in the search for a serial killer. Ben Wade is a former LAPD detective who moved back to his hometown of Rancho Santa Elena in an attempt to save his failing marriage. It didn’t work. He & Rachel divorced but maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of daughter Emma. Santa Elena is a carefully planned bedroom community designed for those seeking to escape the crime & bustle of Los Angeles. It’s a safe place to raise your family & Ben’s biggest challenges are handling drunks & shop lifters. That’s about to change. There’s been a series of murders in Orange County with a specific MO & when a woman is found dead in her home in Mission Viejo, it appears the killer has moved into the area. Body #2 confirms their fears & for the first time, Santa Elena’s shocked residents begin to seriously consider locking their doors. Ben & his colleagues are stumped. Their workload gets heavier when the body of a teenager is found in a strawberry field. Despite being an illegal immigrant, the boy was a star swimmer on the local high school team & destined for an athletic scholarship to college. A handful of short chapters interspersed throughout the book put us inside the mind of the killer. It’s a scary place to be & as he describes scenes from his childhood, we begin to understand how he became a twisted man. But the vast majority of the book belongs to Ben. Initially, he comes across as a sympathetic character who spends a lot of time thinking about past mistakes & mourning what he’s lost. Instead of making things better, moving back to Santa Elena seems to have had the opposite effect. The added job stress is a catalyst for his increasingly erratic behaviour but it’s not until late in the book that we realize what was always simmering below the surface. As Ben reminisces, we learn of his childhood & how the early death of his father was a turning point. These passages are poignant & atmospheric & you feel for the little boy who remains even as Ben grow into a rebellious teenager who goes on to become a cop. As the story progresses, there are definite parallels between him & the killer. Both are held hostage by their pasts & it makes you ponder how they ended up on opposite sides. This is not a thriller & that’s no bad thing. It’s a slow burn type of book with a strong sense of time & place, written in fluid & descriptive prose. Maybe the publishers found it difficult to assign a label. For me, it’s more a character driven police procedural. Yes, there are mysteries & it does contain a killer but everything revolves around & serves to develop the MC. So if you’re looking for an edge-of-you-seat kind of read, you may be disappointed. But if you’re in the mood for rich, literary drama you’ll find much to enjoy here.
Shadow Man is a good book with strong plotting and relatively strong characterisation. Unfortunately, it did not stand above the herd of books in this genre sufficiently to garner anything more than 3 stars from me even though I did enjoy reading it. Our main protagonist, Ben, has moved back to his home town to get away from the violence of Los Angeles but it seems it may have followed him. Whilst Ben is busy bemoaning his marriage breaking up and the erosion of the Cowboy way of life in the canyons the Night Prowler is making his way down the Pacific Coast Highway and striking at random in quiet planned communities on it's path. So far so good, if a little trite in places. At least Ben appears to be a troubled cop with a lowercase t rather than the more standard uppercase one. He is maintaining a relationship with his family and doesn't appear to be alcoholic (although he has flirted with it). Then he finds an illegal Mexican shot in the back of the head in a strawberry field and this leads him back into his own past (cue descent in to Troubled). Although the themes explored are handled well and the writing has good flow and cadence it still feels all a little contrived. Too much angst from Ben about his past and his decisions start to look more and more like those of a maverick cop. We have more than a surfeit of those in this genre and it would have been nice to have a more balanced character at the helm. The resolution of the book is not a cliched one and is paced correctly for maximum reader satisfaction. The villain of the piece is described with some amount of empathy so he is not just a stereotype from the writer's handbook - I just wasn't convinced that either Ben or the Night Prowler could have made their way up the steep canyon side in their respective conditions. Overall this is not a bad book but neither is it a great book. It is a good book within it's genre and you won't feel cheated reading I was just, somehow, left expecting more from it.
"Shadow Man" by Alan Drew is a suspenseful and entertaining thriller that I really enjoyed reading from start to finish. Although not the sadistic, psychotic serial killer book some maybe expecting but still a very well written crime book that's as much a character driven story as a murder one. It has your typical mixed up and troubled serial killer, the actual murders as they happen, dead bodies, the chase to catch the killer before he strikes again and a detective who has his own deep, dark, long buried secret that suddenly starts to sadly expose itself. I loved how we got straight into the serial killer's mind in the opening of the book and I enjoy reading books that have chapters dedicated to a killer and his/her thoughts. Due to this style of writing we were able to see the killer's past and what brought him/her to commit the murders, the actual murders themselves through their eyes and more importantly the truth of what went on during an unexplained death in the story. The characters are very well developed, likeable and interesting. Detective Ben Wade, a solid, decent policeman, is carrying a painful dark secret that starts to raise its ugly head when sadly, it looks like what he's been trying to come to terms with over the years is still going on. At the same time he's trying to be a good father to his teenage daughter Emma and protect both her and his ex wife Rachel from the unknown killer. I also liked forensic specialist Natasha, her kindness towards the dead was lovely of her personality and truly showed her true emotions towards her harrowing job, while at the same time you learnt her past and came to know her very well. The author has also created a fabulous atmospheric setting of Southern California, which I found quite unique and with excellent literary writing, descriptive and creative narrative that was intriguing and entertaining, this is a really good book that I would have no hesitation in recommending. Quite a slow burner but still keeping an acceptable pace, I'm truly pleased I've read this book and would be more than happy to read more by Alan Drew again. 4 stars
I won this novel in a Goodreads giveaway and was asked in return for an honest review. This novel was okay, a bit of a slow read to me. It was well written but at some points it seemed like some scenes had a little bit too much detail. So much so that it was hard to get a good picture of the scene and what was happening. It had a good mystery as well, police in search of a serial killer in the 80's in California. But it also had a few little stories in-between in the characters own personal lives. This novel wasn't one of my top favorite reads but it was good. Just maybe not the best mystery/crime novel. Seemed more like a book filled with personal demons than anything. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5, but we can't give 1/2 stars so I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.
Thoroughly enjoyed this latest novel from Alan Drew. It could not be more different from Gardens of Water, but he does this genre justice, as well. I recommend for anyone interested in Harry Bosch-ish detective stories.
I didn't love this book. First, I have no idea why it is set in the 1980s, rather than present day; aside from a few cultural references (music, TV shows), there is nothing about the time period that is instrumental to the plot. There are two parallel story lines that eventually have points of overlap (some of which are non-credible; I can only suspend my disbelief so much), and neither story is particularly suspenseful; one of the two has a "surprise" that even a casual reader can see coming a mile away. The protagonist, a police detective, is -- predictably -- divorced, and carries much emotional baggage, just like so many other fictional cops. At least he doesn't have a drinking problem and listen to jazz. The author also has some writing quirks that I found distracting -- to-the-minute time references, for example ("Ben left the scene to Rafferty and was back at the station in Santa Elena by 12:52 A.M."; "He left the station at 1:42 and drove the mile over to Rachel's condominium..."; "At 6:07 the next morning he got the call.") Also, I don't know what a "greenbelt" is, some sort of California topography, I guess, but the word is used more than 20 times in the book, and it eventually became like a rock on which I kept stubbing my toe. Finally, scenes that were meant to be suspenseful just weren't, including a car-chase scene that simply fell flat. I managed to labor through to the end, but I can't recommend this book.
Shadow Man, Alan Drew, author, Will Damron, narrator There are two major themes running parallel in this novel. One is about serious abuse by a parent, and the other is about serious sexual abuse, of women and of minors. At the hands of authority figures, minors are often confused about what is acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior. Women are often overpowered by men who go unpunished for their behavior. Irresponsible, reprehensible parenting often goes unnoticed or unreported. Ultimately, all abuse has serious consequences for its victims. Hopefully, there will also be serious consequences for the perpetrators of such heinous and criminal behavior. There is a third more subtle theme about illegal immigration and the plight of the families. On one side of the equation is a child who has been seriously abused and totally neglected by his father. He was kept locked in a basement for six years. Although someone had to have known something evil was going on in his house, no one spoke up to encourage an investigation which would have stopped the child from being tormented and destroyed. He grew up hoping to be set free, wanting to escape from his prison of darkness in the basement; he grew up angry; he grew up severely damaged. He grew up very disturbed, mentally and stunted physically. His childhood memories haunted him. He learned to live in both the world of the present and the world of his past with detrimental consequences. His childhood self was in control of his evil behavior. He enjoyed experiencing the fear of others because it helped consume his own. He lived a secret life. Who witnessed his torment? Why did they keep silent? On the other side of the equation we have Ben. He and his wife Rachel have shared custody of their only child, Emma. They were once high school sweethearts. Ben had been a star swimmer as a high school student, but not a star son. His father had died when he was thrown from a horse while they were both out riding. Although he was only a young child, Ben felt responsible. When his mom remarried, he did not get along with his stepfather. He threw himself into swimming, and his high school swim coach became his mentor and father figure. However, his experiences during those teenage formative years led Ben to want to escape, and he altered the course of his life when he gave up swimming. He continued to suffer mental anguish from his memories. He harbored secrets that he was too ashamed to share with anyone. What happened to Ben? Was anyone aware of his teenage suffering? If so, why did they remain silent? While the abused child lived in the shadows after he was freed from his basement hell, Ben chose to live in the public eye as a decorated police officer. When his quiet California neighborhood was terrorized by a serial killer on the loose, Ben was called in to investigate it. With the Medical Examiner, Natasha, who had her own secrets, he discovered clues that could lead him not only to the serial killer, but also to face his memories that have haunted his subconscious since his teenage years. The story is mostly about these two men. One turns to murder, the other to fighting crime. One turns to madness, the other tries hard to remain sane. Both men suffer from their personal ordeals, both are haunted by their memories or should I say nightmares. The author does a good job of getting inside the heads of the tormented and the tormentors.
More Drama than a Thriller. I was a First Read Winner of this book, and even though it was not quite what I expected, I liked it. Part of the book deals with the serial killer, but I found a bigger part was dealing with the feelings that surfaced for our main character Ben after a discovery of another body. Somehow it made me think of the documentary "The Keepers", and it deals with what can go on at the High School Swim Team when everybody else looks the other way. The book had a hold on me and it definitely was more drama than mystery to me. I could easily see this be the beginning of a series and I would be on board, because I would like to know what will happen to the characters next.
I started this book with the expectation of reading a thriller and while there was suspense and drama, to call this a thriller is quite the stretch. There is a serial killer on the loose and we get to see inside the killer's mind in the very beginning, but that quickly became more side story than anything else. The story does become dark with child abuse being a big part of the story and the personal life of lead character, Ben, is the focus of most of the book. Alan Drew is a talented writer and Ben's story is interesting, but I found myself a bit disappointed with what I got as opposed to what I expected.
“Shadow Man” by Alan Drew finds Detective Benjamin Wade in 1982 struggling in both his personal life and in his career. He has moved from the crime-filled world in Los Angeles to the idyllic planned world of Orange County California. The unthinkable has happened, and the citizens of his “safe” Orange County planned community of Rancho Santa Elena are terrorized. “No one yet had said there was a serial on the loose, but cops had started to whisper exactly that to one another. “ He struggles with his own personal terror as well, his divorce, his teen-age daughter, and his own dark secrets. Past and present become inexplicably intertwined as Wade tries to find peace for his city and peace for himself. The characters are well developed and realistic, and details of their complex relationships emerge little by little over the course of Wade’s attempting to solve the series of murders. The setting is almost a character itself. His descriptions of the Orange County are intense as “the western sky a propane blue,” and his locations are geography precise from the shopping centers and the freeways to the Pacific beaches and everywhere in between. “Shadow Man” shows the alternate side of the tranquil planned community life in Orange County. It is a roller coaster ride with twists, turns, and unexpected happenings from the rugged Orange County mountains to the Pacific Ocean. In the end, all the dark pieces fall into place. I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for my review, and I loved the book. It shows the Orange County where I live and work with all its glories and flaws. I can’t wait for the next in the series.
A very intense and suspenseful read that I found to be very well written and definitely unputdownable. The book was long (definitely worth the money) and never was I bored. It took me all day to read outside on a beautiful spring day. The weather was good, the book was great and it was a very enjoyable day. Plenty of action going on trying to catch this very strange serial killer which held my interest while I ripped through the pages. Thanks to Random House Publishing and Net Galley for approving and allowing me to read and review this thriller!