Book Review: The Shadow Man by Helen Fields
In this creepy, chilling crime thriller, Helen Fields introduces a character I’d like to see again - forensic psychologist Dr Connie Woolwine. Paired with Met detective Brodie Baarda, Connie is brought in to consult on a case Edinburgh detectives can’t make head nor tail of, the kidnapping of a young mother. Soon, a girl is kidnapped in strange circumstances. Then, a young paraplegic man. None of it follows any sort of recognizable pattern of behaviour, but Connie is certain they’re all linked… and that the victims may well still be alive. With only an incredibly vague description to go on - two unreliable witnesses describing the perpetrator as ‘like Jack Skellington’, Connie has to figure it out before kidnap victims turn into bodies.
We know who the perpetrator is from the beginning, but as the book progresses, we slowly come to a deeper understanding of exactly why Fergus is acting as he is. Connie is a few steps behind what’s revealed to the reader, which definitely increases the suspense, the horror of what the victims are living through as Fergus reveals his fantasy of a perfect family… and his failures to create it on earlier attempts.
There’s quite a bit of body horror here, including involuntary medical treatments (including on minors), sexual assault and rape (fortunately off page), dental triggers and major psychiatric disorders leading to dissociative episodes. It’s quite a lot, probably enough to put this into the medical thriller category as well as crime thriller.
Connie is an interesting heroine with a major medical quirk of her own - long-ago head trauma left her with damage to her optic nerve and achromatopsia, the inability to perceive colour. For Connie, the world exists in black, white and greys. She’s a direct-speaking sort and comes off as a bit brash, but I felt she was just cutting through noise to the heart of the problem. I had more difficulty getting any sort of handle on Baarda, who honestly seemed to be there just to be eye candy and for Connie to flirt mildly with. I’m not sure if Fields plans to continue a series with these characters, but I’d definitely want to see more character development for Baarda if she does.
This definitely had me gripped all the way to the end, and I’m intrigued enough by Connie in particular to want to read more of her. I’ll give it five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.