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Published: 24 February 2021 24 February 2021

The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

The Shadow Man is a chillingly dark crime novel, set in Edinburgh, that seems to be about a simple kidnapping, but turns out to be much more complicated. Elspeth Dunwoody – the daughter-in-law of a wealthy global tech company CEO – has disappeared. DI Brodie Baarda, on loan from the Met, and Dr Connie Woolwine, an American forensic psychologist, have been brought in to investigate due to the high-profile nature of the victim. Despite their different approaches, they trust each other’s instincts, and their conversations lighten the tension that would otherwise be overwhelming. Connie reminded me of Temperance Brennan in her lack of people skills; she was excellent in a professional capacity, but tended to rub people up the wrong way.

The first couple of chapters set the tone, and give us a taste of just how dangerous a protagonist we are dealing with here. It comes to light that he is suffering from a rare mental condition where he believes he is dying and therefore has nothing left to lose. The chapters from his point of view really made my skin crawl; he is obviously insane, but Helen Fields somehow manages to evoke some sympathy for him while not condoning his behaviour. However, the most upsetting parts to read were the sections revealing the claustrophobic conditions in which the victims were being held. As the story developed, I found I could not read The Shadow Man in bed at night – it was just too creepy.

Well written, with fully rounded characters, The Shadow Man is a dark and disturbing tale that makes the most of its Edinburgh setting. The main characters work well together, and I hope we see them again. I had not read any of this writer’s books before, but have since found out she is the author of the ‘Perfect’ series, also set in Edinburgh, and I look forward to reading them very soon.

Thanks to Avon and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.