Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.
A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.
Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.
As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.
Title: From the Shadows | Author: GR Halliday | Series: Monica Kennedy #1| Publisher: Harvill Secker | Pages: 432 | ISBN: 9781787301412| Publication date: 18th April 2019| Source: Netgalley
I tend to write reviews in my head when I’m reading a book and the one for ‘From the Shadows’ changed multiple times. At first it was “2 stars, badly written, DNF”, then it was “3 stars, competent but painfully familiar”, but towards the end it was “4 stars, this is actually really good”. It’s fair to say then, that ‘From the Shadows’ is a mixed bag. Ultimately though, it was good enough that I’m eager to read GR Halliday’s next book.
The plot revolves around the abduction and murder of a teenage boy and the investigation of that crime by police detective, Monica Kennedy, and a social worker, Michael Bach. It took me some time to get into the book. The beginning has some good parts, the details of the abduction are chilling, but something about the prose really turned me off. The middle third worked better for me, but is a bit convoluted. The book is too long at almost 450 pages and I think this is where the editor’s knife was needed most. Fortunately, the final act is really gripping. A book that had seemed like an also ran finally found its feet. Plot and character development suddenly clicks into place and the result is great. A book I’d almost given up on became one I couldn’t put down.
I’m not sure why the book was such a rollercoaster for me. Looking back many of its strengths were clear from the start. It’s set in northern Scotland and Halliday makes good use of the location. Everything feels suitably remote and windswept and that lends the book a desperate atmosphere at times that works well. It has two strong leads in Kennedy and Bach. They are very different in many ways, but similar in their complex mix of determination and self doubt. The depiction of the villain and his crimes works well too, he is mysterious and his insanity is convincing enough to be genuinely disturbing. I think perhaps the problem is that the market for this kind of thing is so massively crowded at the moment that any book really has to shine to lift it’s head above the herd. ‘From the Shadows’ does that at times, but maybe not often enough.