SHADOW MAN by Alan Drew
SHADOW MAN by Alan Drew is actually three stories in one book. The first is a story about the hunt for a serial killer in Southern California. The second is the story of a sexual predator who preys upon young boys. The third is the story of Detective Ben Wade, a man trying to solve the murders and molestations in the first two stories. When you have each story fighting to be the center of attention in the book you get a dilution of each and every one.
The year is 1986 and the community in which Ben Wade resides and works is suddenly rocked by a string of murders. Ben is immediately in pursuit of any clue he can find which will help him locate the killer. He is assisted by the special talents of Natasha Betencourt, a forensics specialist who is also working on the murders. While the bodies are piling up one stands out in Wade’s mind. It is that if a high school student, the son of undocumented immigrants. This one does not fit the pattern of the other deaths and Ben suspects it could have been a suicide.
Ben’s personal life is also in turmoil at this time. He and his wife have separated . This is hard on their teenage daughter who wants to maintain a close relationship with both parents. Ben wants to heal his marriage but he also finds himself drawn to the charms of Betencourt. This crisis in his personal life affects his ability to do his best work on the job.
In the third story Ben is forced to confront some of the demons from his past. He needs to face up to these secrets but he is loath to do so. He has kept them buried for so long that bringing them into the light of day may be more than he can bear. Still, if he doesn’t expose them others who are more vulnerable than he can be hurt.
Alan Drew attacks each of these situations with a clear eye and much enthusiasm. He really tries to make sure the reader gets the full effect of each of the stories. But things do not always work out best for the reader. As the pages of the book flip flop back and forth to these various plots, the reader’s attention is split and each different plot line is weakened. If Mr. Drew had picked one, and one only, upon which to focus his attention and talent then the result might have been more successful.
SHADOW MAN ends up being a non-cohesive book which has moments of insight and impact, but also moments where the plot is too scattered to be enjoyed. Alan Drew had three ideas for a good story; he should have dropped two and concentrated on one
SHADOW MAN is published by Random House. It contains 368 pages and sells for $27.00.
Jackie K Cooper