At the start of this book, we learn that 20+ years ago the small depressing town of Gritten was home to the terrible murder of a teenage boy named James.
Paul Adams was James best friend, and prior to the incident, along with another two boys, Charlie and Billy, they spend hours upon hours in ‘The Shadows’, the local name for the creepy woods behind their houses. Charlie is, unfortunately a narcissistic horror, a cocky cult-like figure, and for some reason, James is completely in his thrall. Paul is suspicious and uncomfortable around Charlie but can see how James looks up to him and in order to protect him, determines to stick around. Charlie introduces the concept of lucid dreaming to the group, insisting on them keeping dream diaries, reporting back their ‘shared experiences’ day after day and scaring them to death with talk of ‘red hands’ and the dark man in the woods that will grant them a permanent dreamlife state if they do what he wants… even if that means murder.
Then James is ritualistically killed by Charlie and Billy. Were they awake when it happened? Billy is found covered in blood and holding the knife, but Charlie is nowhere to be seen. He has escaped into The Shadows and has not been seen since.
Now we go back to the present day. Paul’s Mum is nearing the end of her life and he feels it is his duty to come and see her before she dies.
Paul doesn’t want to think about the past, but there have been copycat murders including the death of Michael Price, stabbed to death and surrounded with red hand prints, just like James was. Detective Amanda Beck is on the case – trying to find out if there are links to what happened in Gritten all those years ago,
Thanks to Netgalley, I listened to the audiobook version of The Shadows and the narration was excellent – both Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan are believable as their respective characters and had the tone just right.
I was excited by the premise of this book -it’s creepy, it’s got lucid dreaming and mystery – what’s not to like? But ultimately there were too many characters in this story for me and I found myself struggling to keep up with who they all were. The story meandered a little bit, and although there are a couple of revelatory moments towards the end of the book that were really well delivered and I enjoyed this book, unfortunately I just didn’t love it.