Shadow Man – Cody McFadyen: a powerful and entertaining thriller début in 2006

Cody McFadyen, says the site for Random House, Inc. “…lives with his family in California. Shadow Man is his first novel”.  Not much about this début author there then, best to read the book to make an opinion.

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Shadman

The cover said:

“Meet the most memorable villain since Hannibal Lecter.”

“Face a killer who will haunt your dreams.”

“Read the outstanding thriller début of 2006.”

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So what did I think?

Yes, it’s a gripping thriller and a page turner.  I didn’t want to put it down.

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But now for some context – essential – as it’s the sort of book that might not attract me these days.  I’m bored with the following:

1 Serial-killer-hunting based books.

2 A “gorefest” – something almost fundamental to the serial killer novel.

3 Investigators, of any and all sorts, having a personal involvement in their cases.  There are six degrees of separation, so we think, but for investigators in fiction it’s only ever two or one.  That’s a tad unrealistic, although a serial killer likes the thrill of the chase and the power of beating those who do the chasing, which makes a shorter route on the “degrees of separation” scale.

4 A protagonist so scarred and fraught and with intense personal issues.  Why?

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So, inconclusion, I really could have hated this book, but I didn’t.  I devoured it; turning the pages until the bittersweet end.

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In a nutshell, and from the Random House, Inc., pages this time, as I simply could not attempt to do it better:

Once, Special Agent Smoky Barrett hunted serial killers for the FBI.  She was one of the best – until a madman terrorized her family, killed her husband and daughter, and left her face scarred and her soul brutalized.  Turning the tables on the killer, Smoky shot him dead – but her life was shattered forever.
Now, Smoky dreams about picking up her weapon again.  She dreams about placing the cold steel between her lips and pulling the trigger one last time.  Because for a woman who’s lost everything, what is there left to lose?  She’s about to find out.

In all her years at the Bureau, Smoky has never encountered anyone like him – a new and fascinating kind of monster, a twisted genius who defies profilers’ attempts to understand him.  And he’s issued Smoky a direct challenge, coaxing her back from the brink with the only thing that could convince her to live.

The killer videotaped his latest crime – an act of horror that left a child motherless – then sent a message addressed to Agent Smoky Barrett.  The message is enough to shock Smoky back to work, back to her FBI team.  And that child awakens something in Smoky she thought was gone forever.  Suddenly the stakes are raised.  The game has changed.  For, as this deranged monster embarks on an unspeakable spree of perversion and murder, Smoky is coming alive again – and she’s about to face her greatest fears as a cop, a woman, a mother…and a merciless killer’s next victim.

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This is not a book for the faint hearted.  The crimes are despicable.  They are described, but not gratuitously.  It’s always a factual insight and therefore one that proves essential to the plot.

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I found the strength of this book in the characterisations.  Smoky was not the only believable character, forced into regaining her old professional life as well as her personal life; her colleagues were also, perhaps more so, extremely believable.  All had something in their lives of ultimate importance to them and the serial killer was playing a two-part game with each of them – one, “Catch me if you can on my killing spree”, and two, “I know what will hurt you most and I will threaten it”.  This led to more tension than a body on the rack in Tudor times.

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The characters had me page turning.  It was so easy to get to love Smoky’s team members and also to feel for the child who was left orphaned and traumatised by the killing that propelled Smoky back into the frame.

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Unlike the blurb, my most memorable event of this book will be one of the good guys and not the villain.  “Honey-love” is the key to that one.  I say no more.  I suggest you read the book.

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This is also a great page turner due to keen plotting and sharp prose.  There’s a twist too.  I won’t give you a clue.  I really think the book is worth an attentive read.

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This is a great début, with extremely good writing from Cody McFadyen.  More please!

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I think Smoky may move on to a series, and if she does, perhaps less of the cliché-ridden storytelling?  It worked here for a début, but it’s not the porridge breakfast to build on.  I’d like to see Smoky and Co. making their mark with their normal day to day; investigating the killers that have no issues with them personally.  But I’d also like to know how Smoky’s relationship with her recently mute God-daughter develops.  That child deserves recovery and a life of happiness where Smoky’s the key…

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Conclusion: a great book, even though it’s not my scene really.  That will not stop me buying the next one in the series, if there is a series, as I want to know more!  Try it!  I did and I was more than pleasantly surprised.  An original resurgence of the old serial killer plot, perhaps?

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The Shadow Man is available in the UK from May 2006.  It’s in the shops now and it is indeed an outstanding thriller début.  So get reading!

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5 thoughts on “Shadow Man – Cody McFadyen: a powerful and entertaining thriller début in 2006

  1. crimeficreader

    Dear readers, my apologies for the installation of many lines of …………., but it’s the only way I can get some spaces between paragraphs when I paste in a post prepared on Word. Sometimes a pasting works and sometimes it doesn’t… It didn’t on this occasion and as I have so many searches seeking out this novel, time was of the essence. I hope it’s a readable post.
    Best to all,
    crimeficreader

  2. Kaitlin

    Could you tell me what Cody McFadyen’s next book, The Face of Death, is about? I have searched for a synopsis of it, but there is none to be found. I loved his first book, and i’m looking forward to reading this one too.

  3. Alex A.

    Shadow Man was a great read. A change from the books I’ve read lately. I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning just to find out how it ended. I’m on to the the next one. I’m sure it’s just as good. I hope he will keep the series going.

  4. SCreft

    Just finished The Face of Death…while not quite as gripping as Shadow Man it again makes Smokey the most heroic of heroines in her humanity and vulnerability…a highly recommended read.

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