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The Shimmer    by David Morrell order for
by David Morrell
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Vanguard, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Bestselling author David Morrell now brings fans a spooky new thriller, The Shimmer, based on the real-life phenomenon of unexplained lights in the night sky of Marfa, Texas (transposed to fictional Rostov, Texas) and on the ever popular notion of government conspiracy around the development of a secret weapon.

The lead character is Santa Fe police officer Dan Page, who comes home from a tough day (enjoying his hobby of flying his Cessna on his day off, he's pulled into chasing a fleeing drug dealer, with a tragic outcome) to find that his wife Tori has unexpectedly left him, apparently driving all the way to visit her mother in San Antonio. After Dan files a missing persons report and tracks Tori down to Rostov, Texas, he takes time off duty and flies down to join her and to find out why she left.

On arrival, Dan consults the local lawman, who accompanies him to the place where Tori's car was found, near the observation platform for the Rostov lights, and close to an abandoned World War II military base. Dan finds Tori almost hypnotised by the lights and she reveals some of what drew her there - a childhood memory and dissatisfaction with their relationship. But their reunion is interrupted by a nutcase who, seemingly influenced by the lights, shoots over twenty of the people who have come to see them before Dan and Tori take him down. Dan investigates the Rostov lights, hoping to understand how they're affecting people and also to save his marriage.

While Dan and Tori perform their heroics, Morrell takes readers to the massive astronomical observatory nearby, where they meet former Army Ranger Earl Halloway. A guard at the base, he's entranced by a new phenomenon of subtle, sensual music that comes from the area of the lights - he's quickly addicted to it, though it gives him a growing headache. The observatory is under the authority of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command Col. Warren Raleigh, whose family has a long history with the lights. After he's made aware of the new music being emitted from Rostov - and from similar spots around the world, the ruthless Raleigh rushes a special forces team there.

Last but not least, readers meet egoistic, ambitious journalist Brent Loft, as he and his camerawoman Anita follow the breaking story to the observatory where Halloway is on the rampage. All of these groups converge in a maelstrom of violence that makes for an exciting read. It seems that everyone is affected by the Rostov lights in different ways - to the benefit of some and the destruction of others. In his Afterword, Specters in the Dark, the author talks about the basis of his story in the Marfa mystery lights, the fact that actor James Dean was fascinated by them, and the surprising amount of reality in his novel. The Shimmer is a must read for both thriller fans and conspiracy theorists.

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