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Shadow Man    by Cody McFadyen order for
Shadow Man
by Cody McFadyen
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Debut author Cody McFadyen's brutal thriller Shadow Man features the emotionally and physically scarred Smoky Barrett. An FBI agent since 1990, Barrett had been working out of the agency's Los Angeles office with the Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resources Center (CASMIRC). But Barrett has most recently been recuperating at home on an extended medical leave of absence following the murder of her husband and daughter, and her own abduction and torture by a psychotic killer.

Now, when the terrifying action of Shadow Man opens, Annie King, a lifelong friend of Barrett's, has been tortured and murdered in San Francisco, and Annie's ten year old daughter has witnessed the cruel and vicious crime. In a bizarre twist, the mysterious murderer has left a personal message for Barrett wherein he makes certain boastful claims and derisive taunts: 'To Special Agent Smoky J. Barrett ... I am a direct descendent of Jack the Ripper ... I am carrying on in the footsteps of my ancestor. Like him, I will not be caught, and like him, what I do will become history. Will you play the Inspector Abberline to my Jack? I hope so, I truly do.'

Upon doing their preliminary investigation into King's murder and conducting some quick analysis of the presumed murderer's extraordinary communications, Barrett and her colleagues in the CASMIRC unit are convinced that their UNSUB is, among other things, 'Cold, organized, competent, technically proficient - and he's definitely the real thing.'

There is also a terrible urgency in the case. After all, the messenger says of Annie King, 'She was the first. She will not be the last.' So, when the messenger sends along another provocative challenge, 'Let's begin the chase in such a way: Be at your office on the 20th', the spine-tingling hunt begins.

Yet there are other problems. The indomitable Barrett had been the FBI's most successful serial-killer hunter, but when she tracks down Annie King's killer and, at the same time, finds herself surrounded by unimaginable terror, Barrett will need to confront more than just another psychotic killer. She will also, at the same time, need to overcome her crippling grief and psychological demons, and she must decide whether or not life is still worth living.

The publisher of Shadow Man justifiably touts first-time novelist McFadyen's 'totally engaging heroine' and his 'unforgettable tale of psychological warfare.' Readers who like their conventional, tightly-plotted serial-killer thrillers to be extra dark and disturbingly violent will most certainly enjoy McFadyen's crisp, polished prose and Shadow Man's visceral, fast-paced scenes.

2nd Review by Hilary Williamson:

Cody McFadyen doesn't go easy on his heroine, talented, highly intuitive FBI agent Smoky Barrett, in his chilling debut in Shadow Man, a horrific thriller that is definitely not for the queasy. A year before the story opens, a serial killer tortured Smoky and she watched her beloved husband and daughter die. Though she managed to kill the killer before he finished her off, she was left scarred in body and soul.

Just after a brilliant psychiatrist turns Smoky's mind away from suicide and she reconnects with her FBI associates (a group of quirky individualists), she is informed of the murder of her best friend Annie by someone who penned a note for Smoky and left her small goddaughter (now her ward) catatonic at the scene. The perpetrator, the self-styled Jack Jr. - who claims to be a descendant of Jack the Ripper - goes after women involved in Internet porn. He calls Annie 'A modern-day whore of the information superhighway.' He's also going after Smoky and her associates, finding a way to hurt each of them in turn. And like Charles Manson, he appears to have a charisma that influences others to carry out his vile commands.

Fortunately, the perp's actions awaken Smoky's inner dragon - and she needs it many times before this hard-hitting, fast-paced story ends. Cody McFadyen writes compellingly, as when he calls a young agent's blooding - 'The point where you peer into the abyss for the first time, where you find out that the boogeyman really does exist and really has been hiding under the bed all those years.' Shadow Man is an excellent read - as long as you have a strong stomach. As it closes, Cody bears more physical and mental scars but has also learned that 'Not all ghosts wail or weep. Some just smile.'

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