The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

disturbing | intelligent | unputdownable

what it says on the cover …

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.

Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.

Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.

And he’s watching.

PUBLISHED: 4th February 2021
SHELF: Thriller | Crime
AUTHOR: Helen Fields
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook

Thank you to #NetGalley and @AvonBooksUK for this advance-proof kindle copy of #TheShadowMan by @Helen_Fields

my review

Helen Fields is renowned for her tense, chilling and wholly unsettling thrillers, and her latest novel, The Shadow Man epitomises the unease and edginess that I’ve come to enjoy from her writing.

The Shadow Man opens with a chapter that I, in all honesty, really had to push myself through. But only because it came uncomfortably close to a topic I dread encountering anywhere … rape … I have a deep-seated aversion to it and actively avoid books where it forms part of the story line.  Strangely, the prologue, set in a deserted cemetery where the disturbingly sinister protagonist, Fergus Ariss, is exhuming a grave, didn’t unsettle me at all … it was immediately indicative of a superbly suspenseful novel to come, and so I was inordinately relieved when the thing I was most dreading didn’t happen.  At the time it felt like too close a shave, but as I’m sitting here writing this review I can see it for what it was … an extraordinarily nerve-wracking opening, which is exactly the kind of shudder I crave from a psychological thriller.

So, after my initial nerves I can safely say we’re off to a good start.  

When the wife of a politically well-connected and extremely affluent business man vanishes, Police Scotland waste no time calling in the best possible resources. DI Brodie Baarda is drafted in from London’s Met Ops team, but he rather plays second fiddle to the superb Dr Constance ‘Connie’ Woolwine; a forensic psychologist and profiler from Boston, Massachusetts.  I really cannot wax lyrical enough about what a first-class character the author has created in Connie; she’s bold, incisive, sharp, and forthright, making a great counterpoint to Baarda’s old-Etonian stuffiness.  Don’t get me wrong, Baarda is a bright and wholly likeable character, but it’s through Connie’s questioning and intuitive observations that the case really came to life.  

The Shadow Man features a truly outstanding cast of memorable characters, and I got the impression that the author intentionally powered the plot through her female personas.  Their interactions are authentic, engaging and clearly well-considered, with superb darts of humour (especially between Connie and Dr Alisa Lambert, the chief forensic examiner) bringing unexpected moments of levity to the plot.

In a story that moves fluently between the narratives of the investigators, the murderer, and the victims, the tonal changes between their alternating chapters couldn’t be more stark. Connie and Baarda gave the plot an air of positivity and wise professionalism, only for the optimism to be sucked right out by Ariss’s insidious ‘interruptions’.  Perhaps most striking though were the voices of Arris’s growing ‘collection’ of kidnap victims, whose accounts are viscous with fear and confusion. 

The author has prescribed a truly fascinating and terrifying psychological condition for Fergus; one I’ve never heard of and had to Google right away. I won’t name it here as that really would be a spoiler, but let’s just say it gives rise to some pretty grim physical manifestations, whilst instilling a sense of ultimate impunity in Fergus. And so a lethal, sinister killer is created. Fergus is bright and calculating, but driven by a dangerous sense of desperation making him one hell of a complex criminal for Connie to ‘profile’, and raising the question of whether an arrest will be enough to stop him.  The palpable sense of urgency escalates rapidly in the final chapters, albeit with a final showdown that stretched my incredulity just a little too far.

The Shadow Man is a seriously creepy book.  The composition style portrays an immensely vivid and terrifically detailed plot without ever becoming overwhelming.  Combine that with the relentless tension, potent bursts of drama, and the superb cast of characters and what you’ve got here is a gripping and deeply involving crime thriller. With echoes of Silent Witness, Cracker (a 1990s oldie but a goodie), Dexter, and even a spot of Luther, The Shadow Man is a must-read for fans of intelligent, tense thrillers that sweep you up in both the danger and the puzzle-solving. I really hope the author has more collaborative crime solving in mind for Connie and Baarda.


author bio

photo from

An international and Amazon #1 best-selling author, Helen is a former criminal and family law barrister. She currently commutes between Hampshire, Scotland and California, where she lives with her husband and three children. 

Every book in the Callanach series claimed an Amazon #1 bestseller flag. Her sixth in the series, ‘Perfect Kill’ came out on 6 February 2020.

Helen also writes as HS Chandler, and last year released legal thriller ‘Degrees of Guilt’. Her previous audio book ‘Perfect Crime’ knocked Michelle Obama off the #1 spot.

Translated into 15 languages, and also selling in the USA, Canada & Australasia, Helen’s books have won global recognition.

Her first historical thriller ‘These Lost & Broken Things’ was published in May 2020.

8 thoughts on “The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

  1. ha,ha, and the thing is we keep adding all these books and with new releases popping up everyday, TBR just keeps piling up. I have told myself100 times to tackle the TBR once the ARC commitments are just about manageable, sigh, it’s a constant fight isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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