Cover Image: The Shadow Friend

The Shadow Friend

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Member Reviews

I so much wanted to like this book. The story sounded so intriguing. And for a while I enjoyed it really. But there is something about the authors writing that failed to captivate me. I had the same problem with “The Whisper Man”. I wanted to read and was interested what happened but somehow I was never really gripped and captured by the story.

The author tells us a tangled story told in two timelines. Paul returns after 25 years absence to his hometown because his mother is dying of cancer. Something happened then that kept him from returning home and seeing his mother. In the past we see him as a fifteen year old boy. He has a friend, James, who is the classic type of boy who gets bullied. And Paul stands up for him as good as he can. One day something weird happened and they find themselves somehow naturally befriending two other boys, Billy and Charlie. Charlie is a weird guy. He is obsessed with lucid dreams. James falls totally under the spell of Charlie and his fantasy world about dreaming. But Paul is not so keen about that stuff.

I am not going to tell more about the story because it is very complex and you should discover it for yourself. It is a very interesting story but as I said I was never captured. The author can write and he knows how to create a unique story. The atmosphere in this book is very creepy and I enjoyed that. But he has a problem to drag me really into it. I never felt the urge to leave everything behind and just read the book. I had no problems to leave it for days because I had other things to do. I don’t know why because there is nothing wrong with his writing. But I experienced the same lack of tension with “The Whisper Man” so there must be something missing for my taste.

Until 80% I would have rated this book with solid 4 Stars because of the creepy atmosphere and the interesting story. But then North overdoes it at the end. There is just too much happening towards the end and not everything felt right and logical. I also got frustrated that there are so many characters in the book but they all are characterized very superficial. 

I think I would read another book by Alex North, His stories are interesting and maybe next time I can get really involved in the story. You never know.
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Paul left his hometown because his friend got murdered and another of his friends was responsible for committing the murder. Paul can never forgive himself for what happened. Now he has had to come back as his mum has had a fall and is very ill. On arrival strange things start happen,!there is a copycat murder and Paul feels like he is being followed.  

I was really excited about reading this book because I had enjoyed The Whisper Man so much. This is a book of dual timelines. We go from present day to 25 years ago. Throw in some lucid dreams and not forgetting the female detective and her partner and a few other side characters. I was quite honestly confused a lot of the time. All that being said it is quite a spooky read and on the whole enjoyed the story.
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One of my favourite novels last year was The Whisper Man, the debut novel by Alex North, so I have been really looking forward to reading his second book, The Shadow Friend, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Twenty-five years ago, the small village of Gritten was shocked by the horrific murder of a high-school student and Paul Adams, shocked and feeling guilty about the tragedy, swore he would never return home until, one day, he receives a call that informs him that his mother is dying in hospital so he has no choice but to go back and face the past. Many miles away, in the village of Featherbank, detective Amanda Beck is investigating another gruesome murder of a student. Is this connected to what happened in Gritten all those years ago?

The story is very well-written and addictive. It has supernatural elements that perfectly fits with the dark and creepy atmosphere. The tension is always high so that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading and it’s full of surprising twists, especially one that make me jump from the couch and yell “WHAT???”.  The story is set in Featherbank with the reader is already familiar with if they’ve read The Whisper Man, but mostly in Gritten which the author describes as occupied by run-down houses, industrial estates, and neglected neighbourhoods and with a dull and gray air that made me feel claustrophobic.

The Shadow Friend is told from the points of views of the two protagonists. Paul and Amanda are very intricate and well-developed characters. I loved reading Paul’s flashbacks of his teen years, how he took care of his friends and wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies and take action. Adult Paul was also an interesting and realistic character and I really felt for him. Amanda also feels authentic and relatable and I really liked her.

Alex North is a brilliant author. He creates unforgettable and chilling plots that makes it nearly impossible to put the book down. Like The Whisper Man last year, The Shadow Friend is one of my favourite books of 2020 and I am already looking forward to reading book number 3!!!
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If it had happened to you, you would have run away too.

Paul returns to his hometown of Gritten to visit his mom, who has had a bad fall and is now in a hospice, the last time he was here was 25 years ago when, as a teenager, he was linked to the death of one of his classmates. The killers were Charlie and Billy, two of his friends, Billy was caught and convicted but Charlie disappeared and hasn't been seen since. Now Paul is back and strange things are happening again, someone else is killed and it looks to be a copycat murder, or is it?

The story is told across two timelines, the present day and 25 years ago. It's very busy with lots of characters and is, at times, confusing as it's not always clear which timeline is being referred to when the chapter begins. It's a very spooky read and certainly keeps the reader on their toes. I absolutely loved the author's previous book, The Whisper Man, but this one didn't really grab me the same. Having said that, it is an enjoyable read.

I'd like to thank Penguin UK - Michael Joseph and Netgalley for the approval, I will post my review on Goodreads and Amazon.
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The Shadow Friend is Alex North’s second psychological thriller which often verges on becoming horror fiction and has your heart-thumping uncontrollably at times. Although the book shares elements and connections with North’s previous novel, The Whisper Man, this works perfectly well on its own. Paul Adams hasn't visited his hometown of Gritten for 25 years due to the terrible memories of his friend having been brutally murdered there. However, his mother is currently residing in Gritten hospice, has terminal cancer and hasn't long left so he must pluck up the courage to travel back to the place he's avoided for so long. The murder was truly gruesome with blood everywhere and bloody handprints all over the scene but of the perpetrators, only Billy Roberts was caught as Charlie Crabtree disappeared off the face of the earth. Now Detective Amanda Beck wishes to speak with Paul about the crime he witnessed as the present-day murder of Michael Price shares the same MO and she feels Charlie is involved in some way.

Wow, I don't often say that about a book but this is such a riveting read that is not to be missed. It's well written and impeccably structured to create a mounting sense of dread and the explosive opening kicks the story off with a bang; once you begin it there's no stopping and I devoured it in a single sitting. Undoubtedly one of the best thrillers with a slight supernatural twist thrown in for good measure. I loved that we got only Paul’s perspective rather than multiple and this made the narrative much more powerful and suspenseful. The timeline effortlessly switches between past and present-day slowly unravelling the secrets and nefarious behaviour. It's a complex, deeply sinister tale with a claustrophobic atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat throughout. There are a number of great, unpredictable twists and they were all superbly executed. All in all, this is a compulsive, absorbing, highly entertaining and unbelievably tense read with some shocking twists and a well-conceived plot. Many thanks to Michael Joseph for an ARC.
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After the huge success of Alex North’s debut novel ‘The Whisper Man’ I couldn’t wait to get started on this one. Again this was another creepy and mysterious book but for me, I did find it a little hard to keep track of all the characters. Overall though I still found it to be a very good and entertaining book and I would recommend giving it a read. Looking forward to seeing what Alex comes up with next. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I was really excited to read this book – it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year because I absolutely loved North’s debut, The Whisper Man. I am pleased to say that The Shadow Friend is every bit as sinister and amazing as I’d hoped and just as fantastic as The Whisper Man. The story follows Paul Adams, whose life has been haunted by a traumatic violent event in his teenage years. Charlie Crabtree murdered one of his classmates in a strange and shocking manner and then apparently disappeared off the face of the earth. 25 years later, Paul is forced to return to his childhood home and confront the events of the past and reckon with the copycat murders and eerie events taking place in the present. The narrative is split between Paul and Detective Amanda Beck, who we met in The Whisper Man.

I cannot overstate how much I love Alex North’s writing. It totally draws you in and makes every page feel intense and compelling. The atmosphere of dread and darkness he creates is incredible – there is always a sort of hint of the supernatural teasing at the edges of what is happening. I had to stop reading late at night because it was sending shivers up my spine. Charlie Crabtree is a truly sinister character and every time he was on the page or even just being spoken about I had to keep looking over my shoulder. Charlie is obsessed with the concept of lucid dreaming (which is being in a dream but also being aware that you are dreaming and able to act within it) and this totally freaked me out. There is something quite otherworldly and spooky about dreaming to begin with so the added layer of sinister lucidity creates an honestly terrifying concept which worked perfectly in this story.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because there are some fantastic twists and turns to the story that I didn’t see coming in the slightest! What The Shadow Friend does so brilliantly is it gives the reader the dark atmosphere, the frightening characters and clever plot but there is also a real emotional weight to this book. I cared so much about these characters and was completely invested in trying to work out what exactly was going on. If you like your thrillers intense, addictive and unrelentingly engaging then I think you will love The Shadow Friend. I cannot wait to read whatever this author, who is fast becoming an auto-buy for me, writes next. Highly recommend.
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I find it difficult to pigeon hole this book. I found it both quite unsettling with an uncomfortable undercurrent throughout and not particularly scary in places. Those who liked Alex North's previous book The Whisper Man will like this I think but I can't say it really gripped me. It does seem that North is a writer with a growing following in this genre though so it definitely has a market. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK - Michael Joseph for ARC.
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3.5 Stars
I really enjoyed The Whisper Man by this author and was really looking forward to this book. 
The story was interesting and the creepy undercurrent was very apparent throughout, but it was a very slow burner and I dont feel like it really got going until the last 20%.
I adore the way this author writes, so lyrical and easy to read and get lost in, but I must admit that I didn't get as carried away into the story as I did with The Whisper Man.
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My thanks to Penguin U.K. Michael Joseph for an invitation to receive an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Shadow Friend’ by Alex North in exchange for an honest review. 

Last year I read and reviewed North’s ‘The Whisper Man’ and so was delighted to be invited to read his new literary crime thriller. It has quite a complex plot, which isn’t easy to summarise though I will try to provide a taster. As with most thrillers I advise it is best read ‘cold’. 

‘Red hands, Paul! There are red hands everywhere.’ ‘Oh God, it’s in the house, Paul!’ - Paul’s mum.

Twenty-five years ago when he was fifteen Paul Adams life was forever changed when two of his friends, Charlie Crabtree and Billy Roberts murdered one of their classmates. Billy had been arrested but Charlie disappeared and was never seen again.

It cast a shadow over Paul’s life and when he turned eighteen he left the town of Gritten and never returned. Yet when his mother is hospitalised after a serious fall, he returns. He is shocked when his mother insists that there is something in the house and he finds that she has collected some quite disturbing material linked to the murder.

Meanwhile, in the village of Featherbank, DI Amanda Beck, who had been involved in the Whisper Man case, is now investigating a murder that appears to be a copycat of the Gritten case. In both instances the boys involved had become obsessed with lucid dreaming.

The narrative follows a familiar pattern with contemporary thrillers of switching between multiple points of view. Paul narrates his chapters with some set in the present and others exploring the events of the past.  Other chapters follow Amanda’s investigations. 

As with ‘The Whisper Man’ this started out fairly slowly and increasingly gained momentum in terms of tension and a growing sense of unease. Much of this links to the boys’ interest in lucid dreaming and their fascination with the local woods, known as The Shadows, and the sinister figure that they believe rules over this kingdom, named Red Hands by Charlie. 

There are subtle elements of supernatural horror within the novel as well as a sense of the fluidity of reality and the nature of the borderlands between waking and dreaming. It certainly surprised me, not only in terms of whodunnit but other plot elements. 

I was pleased to encounter Amanda Beck again. It will be interesting to see where North will go from here and if his next project will be set in the same fictional world. I will be eagerly awaiting news.

Highly recommended to those who like their crime novels intelligent, dark, and unsettling.
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An excellent read overall. The writing is clear and well constructed, pace fast and edgy, and the plot thickens just enough to keep you guessing. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review. Will recommend.
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I loved The Whisper Man with a passion so was at once very keen and seriously filled with trepidation to read The Shadow Friend. It only took a few pages for me to be gripped by what is another fantastic read. There’s something about the unique combination of chilling writing and a strong emotional heart that gets to me every time and that’s what makes The Shadow Friend quite so successful.

With echoes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, yet very much a distinctive and bold book, The Shadow Friend is a fabulous blend of very scary and emotionally resonant that really touches the core.

Paul Adams has come home after a long absence to look after his elderly mother whose mind jumps in and out of reality. And reality is something that looms large in this book; because what is real and what imagined is fertile territory for Alex North and here he exploits the fine line to full advantage.

Paul’s childhood was traumatic. He lived in Gritten, a dying post-industrial town on the edge of woods that everyone called The Shadows, not too far away from Featherbank, which first appears in The Whisper Man. His closest school friend, James was murdered and two of his classmates were suspected of his murder.

One disappeared, the other was prosecuted but Paul has never been able to forgive himself for not protecting his friend; for not seeing what was coming. Now it is only his mother who can draw him reluctantly back to a place he cannot be comfortable in.

The story flits from past to present and is seen through Paul’s prism and from the perspective of Detective Amanda Beck (who investigated The Whisper Man). Beck is investigating the death of a teenager; a death that is strikingly reminiscent of the murder Paul lived through 25 years ago.

North examines the dynamic of teenage friendships, manipulation, peer pressure and bullying through the lens of this murder and shows us the immense impact that the past has on our character; how much it shapes our present.

Paul and to a greater extent, James had wanted to belong, to be insiders rather than loners and there were those who, even as young as they were, would seek to exploit and manipulate that. Using the idea of dream culture the teenagers had sought to make their sleeping hours active rather than passive experiences and that triggered a series of events that resulted in the death of one of them.

Now another teenager has been murdered and Paul is getting very concerned that his mother, herself caught somewhere between a dream world and reality, is in possession of knowledge that could help solve this crime.

Throughout the book, North builds in elements of a low level ‘something’s not quite right’ atmosphere that gets stronger as the book progresses. There’s that edgy feeling that won’t go away as you sense that there’s something that Paul isn’t quite grasping; something that is creating danger for him. We get signals for that all the way along as the story chills us with signs and portents; as the atmosphere deepens and darkens and grief, lucid dreams and a murderer on the loose all combine to make for a doom laden read that requires company to make you feel safe reading  in your home.

As the tension rises, so the pace of the book quickens and when the full story is revealed it comes as a shock. What you thought you knew is not at all what you suspected. I love that unpredictability in a book and this one carries it off beautifully.

Verdict: A beautifully structured, character driven, tense and chilling read. Well layered, it creeps up on the reader to provide a read that is intense, chilling and shocking, and which focuses on relationships and is underscored by a remarkable sense of dark place.
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⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
Wow! And again wow!!
I'm kind of at a lost for words. The last quarter of this book was just so unexpected with such a brilliant twist!

I have to admit the first part reminded me a lot of The Whisper Man and it felt like the same blueprint was used; boys being killed and a touch of creepiness. I do think The Whisper Man had more of an eerie feel to it but in the end, this book did not disappoint at all! 

"Red hands, red hands everywhere"

What are dreams?
A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep
But can dreams be manipulated? 
A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. During a lucid dream, the dreamer may gain some amount of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment. 
This is a story built around the exploration of dreams. Its a story about a brutal killing that set in place a snowball of events with a jaw-dropping conclusion 25 years later. It's also a story about love and forgiveness. And in the end its a good old ghost story......" because ghost stories should be sad"

A brilliant read that will blow your mind in the end. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK and Michael Joseph for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. I loved The Whisper Man and the same rings true for North's next book! I really find myself enjoying the teetering line between natural and supernatural that occurs in his work and am glad it came back to welcome us in The Shadow Friend. I connected with the characters on a further level in this (with all the hopes for an Amanda Beck series, is it just me?!)

I felt like the pacing was impeccable, with stories conjoining and revelations appearing at just the right moment for me to remain engaged. I loved the flip between past and present, particularly with the flashbacks giving me some Stephen King-esque 'kids in IT' vibes. The premise of lucid dreaming was really smoothly integrated with the story and while some arcs were predictable, others left me guessing until the very end. Just like with The Whisper Man, I do think the ending is this book's weakest section but not to the same extent. My rating is knocked down because of a few minor discrepancies I either found unrealistic or just not as thrilling as the rest of the book, but all the same a strong read I would highly recommend!
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Another brilliant psychological thriller from Alex North. 
This one is just as creepy as The Whisper Man and with lucid dreaming playing a key part in the story I’ll be careful what I’m thinking before I go to sleep!
Paul goes back to his childhood village when he’s told his mum has had a fall and is in a very bad way. He’s not seen her for 25 years but has spoken to her on the phone now and again. 
Going back home brings back some awful memories for Paul, as last time he was in the village, one of his friends was murdered. 
The story is told in the present tense and also flashbacks to what happened with Paul and his friends as teenagers. Charlie is the ring leader and encourages them to do things they’re not comfortable with but he has a way of persuading the others. 
In the present time another murder has been committed and the crime scene is the same as the one 25 years before so the Police are drawn to the village of Gritten. 
The two stories come together and there’s some great twists and turns in the book. 
A great read that I highly recommend. 
Thanks to Penguin UK - Michael Joseph and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.
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I read Alex North’s debut novel earlier this year and was completely gripped and terrified by the story and the way North writes. So when the opportunity arose for me to read an advanced copy of his latest book, The Shadow Friend, I couldn’t wait to be taken on another terrifying journey.

The way North writes is completely compelling. Whilst reading, the real world ceases to exist and all you can think/worry about it the story you’re reading. Even when you put the book down, the story continues to play on your mind. So much so, I couldn’t read this book whilst home alone and I definitely could not read this book before going to bed.

The story of The Shadow Friend is magnificently written, but it also explores this idea of lucid dreaming. I had a vague idea of what lucid dreaming was before reading this book, but never understood the dangers of it when its used by children. These children were obsessed with the uneasiness and uncanniness of the woods and therefore used lucid dreaming to create a whole narrative about Red Hands.

As always, I was completely hooked on every single page of this book and the story twists and turns seamlessly to keep you craving more detail and answers. Yet again a brilliant crime novel by Alex North and he is definitely becoming one of my favourite authors. I cannot wait for his next book, that is for sure!
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Very enjoyable creepy read. It kept me hooked from start to finish and definitely left me feeling spooked. Look forward to reading more by this author
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Paul's mother is unwell, and likely doesn't have long left. He hasn't been home to the small village of Gritten Wood for years, but he knows he must go back to see his mother before it's too late. The place has bad memories for him, of the woods they called The Shadows, and of two young boys committing murder in the playground. Nobody has seen Charlie Crabtree since that day, and Paul is afraid he will still be lurking somewhere in the woods, waiting for him to come back.

Meanwhile, Amanda is  investigating a similar murder, a copycat perhaps, after all these years. She travels to Gritten to see if she can find out who is encouraging teenaged boys to commit the same crime as Charlie Crabtree, someone who has the forum username CC666.

I've head great things about Alex North's other books, so I was happy to delve into this one. I wasn't disappointed. The writing is good, and the character of Paul is very endearing. There is definite history there are he goes back to his home town and starts to relive all the memories and horrors he left behind. There's a definite creepy feeling to the whole story, like someone is always watching Paul from The Shadows...

I wasn't quite so keen on Amanda's side of the story. It seemed a little bit superficial, as though it was added in without enough thought and depth. Paul's side of the story is certainly the real focus. I wonder whether the Police aspect was really necessary as another perspective, or whether the whole thing should have been from Paul's point of view. Anyway, it didn't ruin the story at all, it just wasn't my favourite part.

This was a good, creepy crime thriller, but with a sort of paranormal twist. If that sounds like your sort of thing then you will probably enjoy this one!
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I wasn't a fan of the Whisper Man but decided to give Alex North new book The Shadows a chance alas I wasn't a fan of this either.

This is a book where nothing really happens and then we get robbed of a potential exciting ending for it to fade to black and explained to us with a short explanation from an observer.
We follow Paul on his return to his home town to visit his dying Mother after an 25 years absent after a shocking event that still haunts him till this day.
I didn't find the book scary or creepy and felt we had too much filler built in for a story that was boring and could have been told in a short Novella.

Sorry Alex I wont be picking up your third book.
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With his Mother in a hospice with end of life care, Paul Adams must return to the town he left behind over 20 years ago.The memories come flooding back of the day that Charlie Crabtree committed a dreadful murder and all that led up to that fateful day. However, the past seems determined not to remain in the past - who is encouraging copycat murders and who is stalking Paul?
This is an exceptionally well written psychological thriller with great suspense and several twists leading to an unexpected conclusion. 
The cast are great - Paul an average sort of teenager and a man who is struggling to put the past behind him. Charlie Crabtree that teenager with charisma and the power of manipulation. There is Amanda a detective who is struggling with her own demons as she tries to live up to the standards she has set herself. These and a host of supporting characters are well written and very believable.
The only hiccup in this book is its swift change between time periods. These are done with little notice and occasionally I had to play catch up to fit the facts within the story. I imagine that the author made them so seamless within the story to continue the flow. However, I am aware that not all readers are a big fan of this style of writing. It does work for this book but as a reader you do need to keep your wits about you.
I really enjoyed this book. It is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a while. I can highly recommend it.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.
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