The Shadows Review
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...
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 took such an unexpected turn. For how it started, I’m a bit disappointed with this ending. It had such strong supernatural vibes. At the beginning, I was confused, then I got completely unnerved and scared myself, then I was shocked, then I felt nothing… The ending was not at all what I was hoping for.
I will say the blurb was slightly misleading as it gave us information that the main character, Paul had no knowledge of until we were well into the book. I had gone into this expecting that he was already aware of the copy-cat murders, but he wasn’t aware of any of those murders. And he didn’t read this in the news, the officer told him about the latest one but not until well after he had already returned to the town.
This book flows very well though, once we get into the rhythm of switching between two timelines of the past and present. It was super easy to glide right through this. The very beginning was a bit hard to read, mainly the prologue and the first few chapters, as I got a little confused at not fully understanding what was going on. In a way, we start with the end when it comes to the timeline of the past. However, the past wasn’t fully explained yet, but eventually, we start to learn what led up to what was shown at the beginning and everything starts to make sense. It was interesting to see these two timelines intermingle the way they did. What we learned in the past almost directly correlated with what was happening in the present.
The past wasn’t fully explained yet, but eventually, we start to learn what led up to what was shown at the beginning and everything starts to make sense. It was interesting to see these two timelines intermingle the way they did.
We eventually see a twist that I would compare to the big shock we get like in The Silent Patient, if you’ve read that you might understand what I mean. Throughout the book, I thought I knew everything that had happened with all the murders, and this idea of the Mister Red Hands myth. Then all of sudden, I felt as if a rug was pulled out from under me! I was completely thrown off and left saying “What just happened?”
I thought I knew everything that had happened with all the murders... Then all of sudden, I felt as if a rug was pulled out from under me! I was completely thrown off and left saying “What just happened?”
After the big twist, the book turned down the wrong route in my opinion. Well, not necessarily wrong, just not what I was hoping for. Based on the whole concept Paul and his friends focus on when they’re young ~ lucid dreams and this Mister Red Hands, I was 100% on board for supernatural. Charlie, the ring leader of Paul’s childhood friend group, was now a ghost and had some sinister plan for Paul. Nope! Nothing! Honestly, the ending reminded me a bit of Home Before Dark, and how that had ended. I had hoped for a supernatural ending there too.
The whole premise of this book reminded me of so many things and I truly think it would have been interesting if it ended in a supernatural way. It wasn’t until the end of Part One when I started to notice several similarities. It was around this part that I went “Oh, fuck…” and several bells went off in my head. Keep reading after my initial review to hear more of the similarities I saw within this book!
Overall, despite the ending, I truly enjoyed reading this one, being creeped out and all! I definitely need to pick up North’s previous book, The Whisper Man. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Alex North! If you love thrillers with strong horror and paranormal vibes then you’ll love this one!
Warning!! Light Spoilers :) Nothing major
Now I’ve not read North’s other book, The Whisper Man. I have it on my shelf though and now I really want to pick it up. This book mentions it in this one. I know The Shadows is not a sequel to The Whisper Man. Nothing was really said about it, it was just referenced when it came to a certain town and how they were affected by The Whisper Man. So now I’m very curious about the connection, though I don’t think it’s anything beyond being in the same universe. It really reminds me of Stephen King in that manner though, he’s always referencing other books within his books especially similar towns. *cough* Derry, Maine *cough*
Speaking of Stephen King, The Shadows has a set up feels very similar to Stephen King’s book IT. Jumping between the past and present. Plus following a main character who in their past is basically part of their own version of the “Loser’s Club.” His small tight-knit group is four boys who aren’t popular and kind of all outcasts. It feels very close to how it was set up in IT.
The Shadows has a set up feels very similar to Stephen King’s book IT.
The further I got into the book, the more unnerved I got. Details surfaced about Paul’s past and I learned about why the murder occurred in both the past and the present. Everything just screamed “Slenderman!!” Which if I’m honest, I scared myself with the idea of this myth. It’s not just the myth of Slenderman, but it was the Slenderman Stabbing where two girls stabbed their own friend 19 times, in order to impress Slenderman, in hope that he would take the girls with him to live in his mansion.
When it comes to The Shadows, the murders within this book were done by two friends of the victim, who then stab the friend in hopes they will vanish in the land of dreams with Mister Red Hands who is also described as a tall figure like Slenderman. Do you see the similarity between the Slenderman Stabbing and this?
However, other details of this Mister Red Hands reminded me of another similarity, this time a movie. Have you seen it? It was Sinister. Where a demon, Bughuul tricks the youngest child of a family into murdering their entire family in return for them to join Bughuul and the other children he’s stolen. Though that one had bounced from previous houses like a chain reaction, when a family moves into the house of the previous murder it starts over. In all the murders, all the bodies but the youngest were found, because Bughuul took the child.
The Shadows feels similar when it comes to this idea of children disappearing to go into dreamland with Mister Red Hands. But it was more of the description of this Mister Red Hands that reminded me of Sinister in the first place, more so the face.
Page 146 ~ “His hair is wild, Paul. And his hands were bright red. But I couldn’t see his face. It was all dark. It was just a hole.”
Now depending on how you interpret that, you may not see the same face I saw. But I envision a similar face as on Bughuul, a facial shape but where there should be features, it’s just dark, like the eyes and mouth.
Warning! Major Spoiler!!
The Big Twist!
This big twist was that Jenny, Paul’s girlfriend was murdered completely shocked me. The entire time, I had assumed it was James, Paul’s best friend. Everything pointed to James being killed. I even reread certain pages, including the prologue several times and was like “Okay, yeah James was killed.” But they never openly said it! Ugh! I can’t trust books anymore! I really liked Jenny…
Learning this definitely threw off everything! Especially since the present timeline had Paul talking to form of Jenny, who I totally thought was a real person. But it in fact was Paul lucid dreaming and who had created a character of Jenny in his mind that grew up with him and created a future where she survived and they spent time together. After this discovery, I felt so bad for Paul! It was so sad that he held onto this guilt and onto Jenny in this manner. He never truly moved on.