You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that 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 afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…
This was such a great read for me all around I loved how well it twisted together supernatural elements with mystery/thriller elements. I haven’t read “The Whisper Man” yet and there is a little nod to it in this book but you certainly don’t need to read it beforehand. The style actually reminds me a lot of C.J. Tudor’s books especially “The Chalk Man”, if you enjoyed that one you’ll more than likely enjoy “The Shadows” as well!
The story centers around one of the main protagonists, Paul, returning to his hometown where a gruesome murder occurred many years ago whose victim and culprit were both friends of his. The boy responsible, Charlie Crabtree, vanished without a trace and has inspired a copycat murder who our other protagonist, Detective Amanda, is investigating. Both characters are determined to find out what exactly happened to Crabtree and stop future murders essentially. I don’t want to spoil a single thing, go into this without knowing a whole ton!
I liked having both POVs (Detecitve Amanda’s and Paul’s) while reading, I thought it was a good way to get us all of the information we needed about the past crime and copycat crime and to build layers to the story. Paul’s chapters do have flashbacks to his childhood when he was friends with this group of boys and it all leads up to the murder itself. Then we go to the present where both characters want to find out what really happened all those years ago and why it’s seemingly happening again. I thought this kept the story pretty suspenseful as well. I liked that everything flowed well together, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or confused at all. Overall I would say the pacing is moderate, I kept turning pages but I wouldn’t say it was exactly un-put-downable or anything and it can feel a little slow at times. There weren’t exactly a ton of “twists” that would make your jaw drop but the mystery is there and it keeps you on your toes but not really on the edge of your seat.
As I already mentioned I really loved how the plot weaves together the supernatural and the practical explanations of the mystery. It was spooky and it had a very dark atmosphere, I was living for it! The plot heavily involves lucid dreaming as well and I thought that just added to the eeriness and it was just really neat. This plays a really big part with the plot overall and the bits where Paul’s lucid dreams are told are so creepy! I thought it was a really unique idea and thus I thought the story was very unique and original personally, North’s writing is fantastic.
I did think the ending had a great twist but overall felt a little lacking and unsatisfying. I do kind of understand why it had to happen that way but, hey, I can still complain!
I think the characters in this book were very strong, they pack a lot of punch and left me feeling pretty attached and emotional over the situations and events they went through, past and present. I wasn’t really expecting to be that emotional over the book but it was a nice surprise. I think Paul develops well over the course of the story especially from his past self, which we see through flashbacks, and Detective Amanda is a bad bitch, period.
I actually enjoyed Paul’s flashbacks the most because that’s where we see just how creepy and demented Charlie Crabtree is. I’m definitely thinking “The Omen” level of creepiness, picture Damien Thorn but older and not the Antichrist (though he acts like it, yikes). Reading about the dynamics of this young friend group was really interesting.
What I Loved:
- Spooky atmosphere
- Weaves supernatural and practical mystery together
- I didn’t find the timelines and multiple POVs to be too confusing
- Complex characters
What I Didn’t Love:
- Pacing felt slow at times
- Ending was kind of “eh”
Overall I do recommend giving this a read and I would definitely recommend this for anyone who wants something spooky/horror without wanting to be too scared or to anyone who enjoyed “The Chalk Man” by C.J. Tudor because that book has a lot in common with this one.
Trigger Warnings: Mention of Suicide, Child Death, Death, Murder, Gore, Violence
**** Huge thank you to Tor for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****