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The Shadow Friend by Alex North – a review

Back in March I attended the Hull Noir online event which not only had some great guests but also a link up with a bookshop to offer signed books, which of course I can never resist especially when it includes the latest by one of my favourite authors, Alex North.

The Shadow Friend is the second book by writer Alex North. The story starts when Paul returns to his home town for the first time 25 years after he left. Returning to visit his mother he is surrounded by memories he has tried hard to forget. However the day his friend Charlie committed a terrible crime isn’t easy to forget especially when it appears there is a copycat criminal now operating.

The Shadow Friend is a creepy read that had me hooked from the start. It is one of those books where when you look back actually the ‘action’ isn’t that much. It is the quality of the writing that gives it a really immersive quality where the tension crackles off the page.

There are two different timelines as we find out about Paul both past and present. In the present we follow Paul dealing with his ailing mother who has been moved into a hospice as well as the creaks and threats that seem to be all around him. A younger Paul is coping with moving to a new school and trying to fit in whilst not being certain he actually wants to. As things get more and more creepy he pulls away but is never really let go.

I felt for the character of Paul, he came across as lonely and lost. Clearly despite moving away he has never managed to put the past behind him and it has affect his whole life. His lonliness almost gives the story an extra dimension as it makes it feel quite a claustrophobic tale as we get further inside his head.

I really enjoyed the book and the short chapters ending on cliff hangers kept me up late every night as I just wanted to read more. Throughout the story there is an undercurrent of the supernatural which adds to the uneasy feeling you get as you head to the final reveal. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. However as soon as you look back you realise that the clues where there but easily missed.

I throughly enjoyed this story and without wanting to give anything anyway there were some twists that I was completely blindsided by. I would highly recommend this, and if you haven’t yet read his first The Whisper Man then that should also be added to your pile!

You can get your copy of The Shadow Friend here.

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Hydra by Matt Wesolowski – a review BLOG TOUR

Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Hull Noir event (funnily enough in Hull) and in preparation for that I picked up a copy of Matt Wesolowski’s debut novel Six Stories. I didn’t actually get around to reading it until after the event but I loved it when I did. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for his latest book Hydra.
Hydra tells the story of Arla Macleod who bludgeoned her parent’s and younger sister to death. She is now in a secure mental institute. Scott King, creator of the Six Stories podcast has picked this case, not this time because he wants to uncover the murdered but because he wants to try and find out why she did it. Again the story is told in the form of six podcasts, each telling a different persons view. With each episode we find out a bit more background and build up a picture of the type of person Arla was and what might have led to the murders.
I absolutely loved this novel. When you read as much as I do it is not often that you find something really unique, to me this is just that. The way of telling the story as a series of podcasts rather than a normal narrative gives it a very different feel to other novels. Scott King is the lead character who takes us through the six different episodes presenting facts about the case alongside the thoughts of the different interviewees. The high quality of the writing means that each character has a very distinct voice which draws you into each individual episode.
Overall this is a relatively simple story and we know from the outset that Arla committed the crime. Yet the beauty of this story is the way it manages to weave other relevant topics into the narrative. Many elements come under scrutiny including social media and its effect on real relationships, twitter and trolls, mental health and even supernatural Japanese rituals.
Hydra manages to use modern day ideas but the outcome is almost an old fashioned ghost story. It’s the type of book that sets you on edge right from the beginning and has you looking over your shoulder until the end.
I would highly recommend Hydra and Six Stories, especially if you are fan of well written original novels.

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