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Synopses & Reviews
Once, Special Agent Smoky Barrett hunted serial killers for the FBI. She was one of the best — until a madman terrorized her family, killed her husband and daughter, and left her face scarred and her soul brutalized. Turning the tables on the killer, Smoky shot him dead — but her life was shattered forever.
Now Smoky dreams about picking up her weapon again. She dreams about placing the cold steel between her lips and pulling the trigger one last time. Because for a woman who's lost everything, what is there left to lose? She's about to find out. In all her years at the Bureau, Smoky has never encountered anyone like him-a new and fascinating kind of monster, a twisted genius who defies profilers' attempts to understand him. And he's issued Smoky a direct challenge, coaxing her back from the brink with the only thing that could convince her to live.
The killer videotaped his latest crime — an act of horror that left a child motherless — then sent a message addressed to Agent Smoky Barrett. The message is enough to shock Smoky back to work, back to her FBI team. And that child awakens something in Smoky she thought was gone forever. Suddenly the stakes are raised. The game has changed. For as this deranged monster embarks on an unspeakable spree of perversion and murder, Smoky is coming alive again — and she's about to face her greatest fears as a cop, a woman, a mother...and a merciless killer's next victim.
"This disturbing serial killer drama set in California marks a promising debut for McFadyen, who combines many conventions of the genre but with far more exquisite, intricate results than the norm. FBI agent Smoky Barrett, a haunted, complicated woman, leads a team of investigators assigned to a serial killer task force. Barrett, who escaped the clutches of a different serial killer a year earlier but lost her husband and daughter in the attack, is now tracking a madman known as 'Jack Jr.,' who believes he's a descendant of Jack the Ripper. He mauls women, mostly prostitutes with Web sites, then sends the videotapes of the killings to Barrett and her crew. The plot follows a typical arc, complete with some nauseating details and predictable twists. There's also a romance between Barrett and a bodyguard that seems tacked on for future installments. Yet McFadyen's writing is crisp and smart, and his scenes pack a visceral punch without being cheap or exploitative. Barrett, for her part, is a memorable protagonist, a deeply troubled woman trying to move on from tragedy, yet possessing special insight into the criminal mind. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Cody Mcfadyen's 'Shadow Man' is possibly the most violent thriller I've ever read — it's clearly not for everyone — yet I never felt its violence was gratuitous. In his story of an FBI agent's pursuit of a serial killer, Mcfadyen is trying to address the enduring conflict between good and evil. Insofar as he succeeds, it is because his heroine, Los Angeles-based Smoky Barrett, is such a powerful... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) mixture of strength and vulnerability, courage and fear. In a strange way, Barrett's mingled roles as woman, victim and avenger make the novel as humane as it is violent. When we meet Barrett, she is on leave from the FBI. We are introduced to her nightmares, to the fresh scars that disfigure her face and body, to her thoughts of suicide. Her psychiatrist sums up her case succinctly: 'Six months ago a man you were hunting, Joseph Sands, came after you and your family, killed your husband in front of you, raped and tortured you, and killed your daughter. Through an effort that could only be called superhuman, you turned the tables on him, taking his life.' Soon enough, we are given the unspeakable details of the attack. The psychiatrist challenges Barrett to reject the lure of suicide and return to work. He produces her gun, the Glock she once used with such skill, and tells her to pick it up. Instead, she falls to the floor: 'I scream, and I beat my head with my hands, and I feel myself starting to sob, and I know he's done it. He's cracked me, split me open, torn my guts out. The fact that he's done it to help me isn't any comfort, none at all, because right now everything is pain, pain, pain.' Much of Barrett's story unfolds at this level of intensity. She forces herself to return to the FBI serial-killer office she heads and is drawn into a new case. Her close friend from high school has been viciously murdered, and the killer has left a note challenging Barrett to find him. The woman's 10-year-old daughter was left tied to her mother's body and is catatonic. Barrett takes in the child, Bonnie, who a bit too neatly becomes a replacement for her own murdered daughter. The killer claims to be a descendant of Jack the Ripper. He targets not only Barrett but also her three co-workers, and he demonstrates a terrifying ability to do harm to them and their families. Even as he torments the FBI agents, he sends them videos of the murders of more women — prostitutes, eviscerated like the original Ripper's victims. Mcfadyen's is a landscape filled with monsters. By letter, the killer taunts Barrett about the child he has left catatonic: 'How is little Bonnie? Does she scream and weep, or is she simply silent. I wonder about this from time to time. Please, tell her I said hello.' He has acolytes he's recruited on the Internet. One of the book's most decent characters is not only seized by the killer but also suffers from cancer. As if this latter-day Ripper's crimes weren't enough, Mcfadyen has various police and FBI agents recall other horrors from the past. In this world, evil is passed on from one generation to the next, without end. Even as Barrett tracks the killer, she struggles with both her fears and her new role as surrogate mother. 'God, I am afraid,' she says. 'All the time. I wake up afraid, I walk around afraid, I go to sleep afraid.' In one scene with the child, 'We just stare at each other, letting the tears roll down our cheeks. That's what tears are for, after all. A way for the soul to bleed.' She reflects on the challenges of motherhood: 'Being a parent is not a one-note thing, a single-act play. It's complex, and it contains both love and anger, selflessness and selfishness. Times you are breathless and overwhelmed at the beauty of your child. Times you wish, just for a moment, that there was no child at all.' Many readers who will be put off by the novel's violence might, if they give it a chance, find relief in the sensitivity Mcfadyen gives Barrett. Few men who write serial-killer novels have created a woman of such depth. This first novel has weaknesses, though. For such a brilliant cop, Barrett neglects to ask some obvious questions, and for such a brilliant criminal, the Ripper neglects to eliminate the one person most likely to undo him. There are minor annoyances, too. One FBI agent, glamorous Callie, calls everyone 'honey-love,' and after about the hundredth time, that endearment becomes maddening. But Barrett's anger, pain and determination infuse the novel with a raw passion that — along with its mounting suspense — sweeps you past the weak spots. 'Shadow Man' doesn't rank with the finest serial-killer novels, such as Thomas Harris' 'The Silence of the Lambs' and Michael Connelly's 'The Poet,' but if you can handle the violence, it will be among the best crime fiction you will read this year." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"First-time novelist McFadyen writes like an old pro, acknowledging the conventions of the serial-killer thriller without being slavishly devoted to them....A series to watch." Booklist
"McFadyen doesn't flinch in his graphic descriptions of violence, so this book is definitely not for the squeamish." Library Journal
"Although plenty of nasty action plays out in San Francsico and L.A., the more compelling parts of McFadyen's pursuit center on the net, where capture and survival become a matter of tracking website sign-on names, IPs (Internet protocol numbers) and user IDs." Kirkus Reviews
"Coldly, stunningly brilliant. Move over Thomas Harris, Mcfadyen has brought a new game to town." Lisa Gardner
About the Author
Cody McFadyen lives with his family in California. Shadow Man is his first novel.
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