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by Ruth Newman
Simon & Schuster, July 2010
384 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847377270

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kate Benson is flicking through her friends' holiday photos when she sees a face she remembers. Except, it's her husband Charlie – and he died a year ago.

THE COMPANY OF SHADOWS is a twisty, turny thriller that will leave you with neckache! And it's a vast departure from Ruth Newman's impressive debut novel TWISTED WING which featured a serial killer running amok amidst Cambridge University students.

Her second outing is plonked firmly into the suspense and thriller fields as Kate hurtles around the world trying to track down the mystery man from the photographs. She's been treading water in London as she tries to get over Charlie's death. Suddenly she's plunged into his previous life in both Sicily and Miami as she attempts to find out what really happened to him.

THE COMPANY OF SHADOWS has the feel of a Harlan Coben novel with the effects turned up 100-fold. Someone disappears, spouse must find out what happened to them, shifty family and friends lurk in the background and both help and hinder the search… Instead of small-town America, though, we get the round-the-world chase so beloved of 'save the world' thrillers.

Despite one or two glitches in characterisation, TWISTED WING was a dark, fascinating and assured book with which to launch a writing career. THE COMPANY OF SHADOWS is fluent and gripping, but doesn't feel quite in the same class. It's the kind of novel you very happily read on a plane or on the beach, and then promptly forget about.

TWISTED WING worked well because it focussed in on a small group of people and as a result built up some very real menace. THE COMPANY OF SHADOWS has a handful of scary scenes, but feels much more diluted by comparison because of its international jet-setting.

What does work well in it, though, is the feeling of never being sure who you can trust – and that includes Kate herself, who is hiding secrets of her own. Newman plays fair with you, so the chances are you might well guess what they are (I did when the rather too neat ending happened along).

Kudos to Newman for attempting something new, even if THE COMPANY OF SHADOWS doesn't have the dark menace of the debut novel. But it confirms that she's a natural storyteller with a fertile imagination.

§ Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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