by North, Alex

"The haunting new thriller from Alex North, author of the New York Times bestseller The Whisper Man You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile-always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it's attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet-and inspired more than one copycat.Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree-and his victim-were Paul's friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home. It's not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there's something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago. It wasn't just the murder. It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again.."-

Alex North is the internationally bestselling author of The Whisper Man. He lives in Leeds, England, with his wife and son, and is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

*Starred Review* DI Amanda Beck, still recovering from the trauma recounted in The Whisper Man (2019), is called in when another horrendous event occurs in the ill-fated small town of Featherbank. She believes it to be patterned after a crime 25 years ago in which two teenagers murdered a fellow schoolmate in a vicious stabbing. One of the two was captured, but the other, Charlie Crabtree, seemed to vanish into thin air. Charlie was a malicious misfit who claimed to have supernatural powers heightened by the practice of lucid dreaming and has since developed an online cult following. The woods surrounding the town are known locally as the Shadows, rumored to be inhabited by the ghost of a suicide victim called Red Hands, which serves to heighten speculation. Both crime scenes were riddled with bloody handprints. Paul Adams has returned to the town for the first time since the Whisper Man case to see to his aged mother's affairs. The murderers and the victim were his friends. He expects to be uncomfortable but is totally unprepared for the terror that ensues. The reader can expect to be electrified by the author's total mastery of misdirection. This second stunning thriller firmly establishes North as a rapturous teller of tales. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

A copycat killing of a teenager 25 years after the original murder reopens old wounds in a small British town. You hear a lot about mean girls, but in North's follow-up to The Whisper Man (2019), it's the boys who are a bunch of creeps. Back in his school days, 14-year-old Paul Adams and his best friend, James—a couple of losers—fell in with a small, nasty crowd led by a charismatic, seemingly psychic, and possibly homicidal weirdo named Charlie Crabtree. Charlie trained his group in the keeping of dream diaries and the techniques of lucid dreaming, and ultimately one of the friends ended up dead. The local scary woods, known as The Shadows, and a wild pattern of bloody handprints, known as Red Hands, were involved. As soon as he possibly could, Paul packed up for college and never went back, not even once. When he is forced by his elderly mother's fall to return to Gritten Park 25 year later, there is only one consolation—he reconnects with Jenny, the bookish girl with whom he bonded over a shared love of Stephen King. (Their conversation about the King oeuvre is on e of the most charming parts of the book.) Meanwhile, on a parallel track, Detective Amanda Beck is investigating the recent murder of a teenage boy in the town of Featherbank. On message boards used by those close to the incident, someone with the handle CC666 claims to have been present at the original Red Hands murder so long ago. No one has seen Charlie Crabtree in 25 years...could this be him? The complicated backstory and new characters introduced late in the game to explain the increasingly confusing facts are not great. But the recourse to the ol' "and then I woke up" tactic to pull one over on the reader is worse. Despite several interesting characters, the suspense plot lacks an engaging emotional core. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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