The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

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The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Fergus Ariss is in his late thirties and he knows that he's dying but there are things he wants first. We know who, but we don't know where, or how the police are going to find him.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2021
Publisher: Avon
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008379308

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Fergus Ariss is in his late thirties and he knows that he's dying. His body is giving up on him, his internal organs beginning to putrify but before he dies he wants a wife, a child and a brother. He's been on the lookout for the perfect people and he's made certain preparations. The flat where the family will live is prepared and even windows with curtains, and pictures in frames have been painted onto the walls. Angela Fernycroft was to be his wife. Her husband, Cal, had taken the children - a boy of seven and a girl of five, away for the weekend. Unfortunately, it doesn't go according to plan and Angela dies.

Police Scotland was stretched so they brought in outside help to investigate the death of Angela Fernycroft. Dr Connie Woolwine is an American profiler and she's staying at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. DI Baarda is from the Metropolitan Police. They're going to have to become a team and develop some local knowledge but before they can do that Elspeth Dunwoody is abducted. She will become Fergus's wife, even going through a wedding ceremony with him. Fergus wants things done properly.

Dr Connie Woolwine has a problem. She's had it since she was in her late teens: she has achromatopsia. She can only see in black and white and shades in between but she has no colour vision. Being an achromat is no longer a problem to her although people around her can find it difficult to deal with. Brodie Baarda is OK with it: he's got problems of his own. Back in London, his wife is having an affair with one of his colleagues. And then twelve-year-old Meggy Russell is abducted from outside her school, in broad daylight.

How do you link together the murder of a woman, the abduction of another and then the abduction of a child? Murderers don't usually go in for abducting women: it's the kill that's important to them. Abductors usually stick to a particular group of individuals rather than going for an adult and a child. It's going to take all the combined skills of Connie and Baarda to work it out and Connie is going to surprise quite a few people with just how close she's prepared to get to a corpse.

I first encountered Helen Fields when I read Perfect Kill, part of her DI Callanach series where I found some of the sexual and violent scenes a little graphic. I didn't find the same problem with The Shadow Man (which is a stand-alone) but that might have been because I don't have a problem with corpses and it has to be said that there are rather a lot in the story.

My tolerance was helped by the fact that the writing is good. Fields captures a scene with just a few words:

An oxygen tank sat next to his bed like some bizarre relative waiting for interaction.

The characterisation is good too: Fergus Ariss is an original. I don't think I've ever met anyone suffering from Cotard's syndrome (also known as walking corpse syndrome) before but Fields uses it to great effect. It's an unusual, engaging read and I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

For more crime which features a profiler, we can recommend Dead Memories (D I Kim Stone) by Angela Marsons.

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