Hello, friends, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of the New Year. Although I was offline for November and December, I did manage to read several books—not nearly as many as I hoped. I even failed in my Goodreads Challenge this year, only managing 65 of the 70 books I’d hoped to read. That aside, the next few Tuesdays will be devoted to books I devoured at the end of 2020. Let’s get started!
by Alex North
I became a fan of Alex North after reading his first book. The Whisper Man. When I read about North’s inspiration for The Shadows—the horrid but true-life Slender Man case—I was immediately intrigued. It’s difficult to imagine how the assailants in the Slender Man case could have been motivated to such an atrocious act by an internet forum. North takes that idea and puts his own spin on it, changing the killers from teen girls to teen boys.
The book is told in first person and third person with two timelines, past and present. As a teen, the main character, Paul Adams, was involved with a group of four, led by Charlie Crabtree, an anti-social obsessed with lucid dreaming. Paul breaks ties with the others when Charlie’s behavior becomes fanatical. When a good friend is killed and the death is attributed to Charlie (after which he disappears) Paul is saddled with grief, guilt, and anger. He leaves town at eighteen, hoping to put the tragedy behind him.
Twenty-five years later, another teen is killed, the murder eerily reminiscent of the tragedy in Paul’s past. At the same time, he returns home, needing to deal with his mother’s dementia. The past returns in the form of internet forums devoted to Cratbtree, the old killing, and a sinister cult-like figure known as Red Hands.
North is a good storyteller and he spins a complex tale. I was surprised by the major twists at the end and the tale held my interest. Paul’s POV is delivered in first person in both past and present, while a detective in the present is relayed in third person POV.
I am a fan of books that switch between past and present, and although I enjoyed this book, there were moments that frustrated me. The gaps between past and present often stretched too long. When there was a huge hook ending on a chapter in the past, the stretch to return took too long because of the need for two POVs in the present. By that time, I had forgotten or lost the momentum from the past. Add in lucid dreaming sections, and scenes occasionally became muddled for me.
There was also a storyline that I felt was plodding, but at the end becomes a key element. Brilliant, really. Overall this is a slow burn, and the reader needs to stick with the story. Not as riveting as The Whisper Man, but still an intricately spun tale. I think it may have been better sticking solely with the main plot thread. I generally love complex novels with multiple threads, but in this case, it bogged things down a bit too much.
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4 for review ratings
Genre: Horror Suspense > Supernatural Mystery > Supernatural Thriller
The Girls Weekend
by Jody Gehrman
Several former college friends, now in their thirties, reunite for a weekend at a sprawling estate owned by the most successful of the group. Sadie MacTavish has achieved J.K. Rowling like fame through a series of middle grade novels that were optioned for the big screen. Life with her handsome Scottish husband, and beautiful teen daughter appears idyllic and perfect.
By contrast, June Moody’s boyfriend has just dumped her via text, and she hasn’t become the great American novelist she once envisioned. The last thing she wants to do is spend a weekend with her former frenemy/rival, Sadie, and Sadie’s husband, Ethan, who once proposed marriage to June. But mutual friend, Amy, is expecting a baby, and Sadie is the one throwing the shower.
June joins Sadie and Amy, along with their remaining friends from college–Em and Kimiko. It’s obvious from the get-go Sadie is a control freak who manipulates everyone and everything in her orbit. When she turns up missing after the first night, blood splatter and a broken statue point to foul play.
There are plenty of undercurrents and baggage among the characters. Amy has suffered mental problems most of her life, Kimiko has a fondness for drink and drugs, Em wants to keep something hidden, and Ethan isn’t as devoted as Sadie has led everyone to believe. A landscaper who lives on the property was overheard arguing with Sadie, and her daughter’s boyfriend isn’t well received by mom.
This book kept me flipping pages as the relationships between the characters become more detailed, many overlapping as the chapters progress. Watching all the pieces fall into place is a bit like a slo-mo train wreck. I’m usually able to figure out “whodunit” before the end of most mysteries, but my initial guess proved wrong.
As the narrator, June is a relatable character, one it’s easy to get behind, especially when she finds herself the prime suspect due to her previous relationship with Ethan.
Overall, I found the story suspenseful, but at the same time breezy and fast-paced. The writing is exquisite, with many turns of phrase and descriptions that made me stop to soak them in. Highly enjoyable and atmospheric!
Genre: Amateur Sleuths > Women Sleuths
Thanks for visiting with me today. It’s great to be back sharing reviews again. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 🙂