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Shadow Man: A Novel by Alan Drew

Shadow Man: A Novel

by Alan Drew

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Detective Ben Wade and his then-wife, Rachel, returned to their hometown of Rancho Santa Elena for a peaceful, safe life for themselves and their daughter. After all, as a detective, Ben knows the darker side of life. But even the idyllic California community couldn't save his marriage with Rachel--his high school sweetheart--and now the two are divorced and jointly raising their teenage daughter, Emma. And, for the most part, Ben's career is pretty dull: nothing like his old LA one. That all changes when a serial killer starts haunting the area. They come around at night, slipping in doors and windows, and terrifying the residents of this planned community. At the same time, Ben is trying to figure out if a young Hispanic teen truly committed suicide. Are these two crimes interconnected? And how much destruction will this killer bring until found?

I'm a sucker for a good crime novel, so I was intrigued by the description of Alan Drew's book; I have never read anything by this author before. I'm not sure I realized the novel was actually set in the late 1980s; I tend to read more contemporary fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised by this mystery. Although mystery is somewhat of a misnomer. While there is a case to solve here--two really--this is far more a character-driven novel, with an intense focus on Ben, his personal life, and how his past life has made him into the detective and man he is now.

In many ways, this is a novel about the passage of time and the effects it has on a person. It is a novel about the effects of abuse, as well, and what it can do to someone. Can a child who suffers abuse come through unscathed? I wasn't expecting such a storyline when I started the novel, but it worked. It's quite well-done and while much of the book is often sad, it's well-written and the pages pass quickly.

The novel is told from three points of view: Ben; our serial killer; and Natasha Betencourt, the local assistant Medical Examiner. Of course, Natasha and Ben have a bit of a personal relationship (this is a novel, after all). And, sure, Ben often comes across as the cliched crime detective who doesn't always follow the rules. Because of this--and because of the California setting--I couldn't help but think of Michael Connelly's amazing Harry Bosch as I was reading this (Bosch probably being my all-time favorite fictional detective). I actually would sometimes even accidentally read "Ben" as "Bosch." Still, to be compared to Bosch and not come across completely lesser for it is pretty high praise. Ben is no Bosch, but he's a well-written character, even if he is a bit cliched from time to time. Yes, he's dealing with a past. Yes, he likes to break the rules to get the job done (hey, so does Bosch). My only issue was that it was implied that he sometimes let his detective work slip a bit due to his personal ties in one of the cases: that didn't seem right.

Still, overall I really enjoyed this novel. The two storylines--the first being the serial killer case, the second being the teen suicide--intersected well and kept the book moving. Ben's ties to the teen were surprising and gave the book an emotional depth I wasn't expecting. While I'm not sure Drew could keep up the emotional rollercoaster for every novel, I could see Detective Ben Wade becoming a recurring character in a series. If so, I would certainly read the next book. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 05/23/2017.

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  justacatandabook | Jul 21, 2017 |
Detective Benjamin Wade is confronted with dual mysteries in this book. One has to do with a serial killer who primarily strangles his unsuspecting victims. The other is more personal as it deals with the local high school and people he has known since his youth. There is a domestic aspect to the novel as he is divorced with a teenaged daughter and he and his ex wife are struggling with her emerging sexuality. There is a lot here in this novel but overall the author is successful melding the disparate plots. ( )
  muddyboy | Jul 12, 2017 |
It’s the mid-1980s and Detective Ben Wade has moved his family to Rancho Santa Elena, some thirty-five miles from Los Angeles. Hoping his peaceful hometown will mean a quieter life for his family, he believes serving on the local Rancho Santa Elena police force will be less dangerous than his big city police work, something he believes will give his wife, Rachel, peace of mind.

But things don’t work out that way, and Ben finds himself divorced and living apart from Rachel and his daughter, Emma. Complicating things, a serial killer known as the Night Prowler continues to elude capture, setting the town on edge. And Ben finds himself struggling with the dark secrets of his past. Can the detective keep the town safe or will its secrets spell its doom?

This literary drama takes readers into the heart and soul of Ben Wade with his deeply introspective musings. Richly atmospheric, the narrative pulls no punches in its examination of crimes against children. There is much to pull at the reader’s heartstrings: events of the past, victims of the serial killer, the detective’s dilemma. At times dark and disturbing, the engrossing narrative offers readers much to consider.

Highly recommended. ( )
  jfe16 | Jul 11, 2017 |
Shadow Man, Alan Drew, author, Will Damron, narrator
There are two major themes running parallel in this novel. One is about serious abuse by a parent, and the other is about serious sexual abuse, of women and of minors. At the hands of authority figures, minors are often confused about what is acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior. Women are often overpowered by men who go unpunished for their behavior. Irresponsible, reprehensible parenting often goes unnoticed or unreported. Ultimately, all abuse has serious consequences for its victims. Hopefully, there will also be serious consequences for the perpetrators of such heinous and criminal behavior. There is a third more subtle theme about illegal immigration and the plight of the families.
On one side of the equation is a child who has been seriously abused and totally neglected by his father. He was kept locked in a basement for six years. Although someone had to have known something evil was going on in his house, no one spoke up to encourage an investigation which would have stopped the child from being tormented and destroyed. He grew up hoping to be set free, wanting to escape from his prison of darkness in the basement; he grew up angry; he grew up severely damaged. He grew up very disturbed, mentally and stunted physically. His childhood memories haunted him. He learned to live in both the world of the present and the world of his past with detrimental consequences. His childhood self was in control of his evil behavior. He enjoyed experiencing the fear of others because it helped consume his own. He lived a secret life. Who witnessed his torment? Why did they keep silent?
On the other side of the equation we have Ben. He and his wife Rachel have shared custody of their only child, Emma. They were once high school sweethearts. Ben had been a star swimmer as a high school student, but not a star son. His father had died when he was thrown from a horse while they were both out riding. Although he was only a young child, Ben felt responsible. When his mom remarried, he did not get along with his stepfather. He threw himself into swimming, and his high school swim coach became his mentor and father figure. However, his experiences during those teenage formative years led Ben to want to escape, and he altered the course of his life when he gave up swimming. He continued to suffer mental anguish from his memories. He harbored secrets that he was too ashamed to share with anyone. What happened to Ben? Was anyone aware of his teenage suffering? If so, why did they remain silent?
While the abused child lived in the shadows after he was freed from his basement hell, Ben chose to live in the public eye as a decorated police officer. When his quiet California neighborhood was terrorized by a serial killer on the loose, Ben was called in to investigate it. With the Medical Examiner, Natasha, who had her own secrets, he discovered clues that could lead him not only to the serial killer, but also to face his memories that have haunted his subconscious since his teenage years. The story is mostly about these two men. One turns to murder, the other to fighting crime. One turns to madness, the other tries hard to remain sane. Both men suffer from their personal ordeals, both are haunted by their memories or should I say nightmares.
The author does a good job of getting inside the heads of the tormented and the tormentors. I thought that some parts of the story seemed to parallel the sadism often found in Stephen King novels. The author seriously proved the point that how you are treated really affects how you turn out. Cowards do not face their problems and confront them. Brave people do face them and deal with them. They do not turn a blind eye to evil, hoping someone else will address it. They deal with it even when it means they must face humiliation and shame to correct it. They do what they must to prevent others from suffering the same ill gotten fate. Secrets create problems that cannot be resolved. Adults must be the examples.
The narrator portrayed each character well. The reader feels the tension created and anticipates the action that is coming at them, sustaining their continued interest. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jun 18, 2017 |
Same old same old

There is nothing wrong with this book. It's reasonably well written and the characters are all well developed and there is a story. The problem is that I seem to have read this same book a hundred times in the past 3 years of reviewing for NetGalley. (In particular it could almost be the Jimmy Vega series by Suzanne Chazin.) So give it a miss and find something more unusual.

I received a review copy of "Shadow Man: A Novel" by Alan Drew (Random House) through NetGalley.com.

NB Why are so many books subtitled "A Novel" these days? Will the next rounds be "A New Novel" and then "A Different Novel" or "Yes this is a Novel"? ( )
  Dokfintong | Jun 15, 2017 |
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"Vice cop Ben Wade has returned to his hometown of Santa Ana for a quieter life. When a woman is murdered in her kitchen, the town finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the serial, Ben's own world is rocked again by a teen's suicide. Ben must decide how far he is willing to go, and how much he will risk, to rescue the town from a long buried evil, as well as from a psychotic serial killer. With eerie, chilling, as well as fine prose, Alan Drew brings us into the treacherous underbelly of a suburban California town in this suspenseful novel of thrilling noir, the story of a community confronted with the heart of human darkness"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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