ARC Review: The Shadow People, by Graham Masterton.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an Ecopy of this book to review.

”This is all people’, he said, and he could hear himself saying it as if somebody else was speaking into his ear. ‘This whole bloody barbeque. It’s people.”

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Release date: 31 December 2021.

Pages: 420

Representation:  POC main character.

Trigger warnings: Abduction, drug abuse, cannibalism, murder, child abuse, transphobia, racism, abuse directed towards the mentally ill, police, violence, heavy mention of religion

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Summary: Thousands of people go missing in central London every year, never to be heard from again. No one knows where they all go. When human remains of missing people are found cooking, DS Patel and DC Pardoe are left to find out who’s behind it. Hunting a murderous, cannibalistic cult wasn’t precisely what they had in mind when they got out of bed in the morning. When the story starts to unravel and the cult religious roots come into view, will they be able to stop the slaughter and avoid becoming lunch themselves?

The shadow people cast a dark shadow on the horror genre, with its feet set far deeper into the dark than it would first appear.

The idea was a good one, it was creative, and I loved the sound of it. I was so excited about it until I started to read.

In the first chapter, the author compares the blackened char of cooked human heads to ‘a hideous parody of a 1950’s minstrel show.’ If the only way you can describe burnt BBQ is to compare it to a grotesque parody of what was already a hideous, downright insulting parody of BIPOC, then your writing style leaves a lot to be desired.

This type of commentary continued throughout, with regular microaggressions towards BIPOC, Asian people, the homeless and the mentally ill. It felt like a whole book making fun of minorities. I was pleasantly surprised that DS Patel was Pakistani until I realised she would be used as a plot device. She needed to tell stories of hideousness back in her home country, men being abusive, and her aunt eating a stillborn baby. The entire thing felt like a primitive attack of a culture the author didn’t know much about. If I wrote a list of every culture or minority this book managed to insult, I’d have a notebook almost as long as the list itself.

Lack of research was evident in almost every chapter. I’m not fluent in German, but I lived there for a year of my life and speak it well. It appears that the author has thrown some words in google translate ad then based a large part of his book around them. He uses the words ‘erst’ and ‘sek’ to mean first and second, and from this, the police identify a German link to the crimes. Erst does tell first, but second is “Zweite”. From my best guess, Graham translated second, and it came out as “Sekunde”, which translates a second meaning a unit of time. Not a numerical order. Most people would overlook a little thing, but it showed how little care was put into the entire thing.

This continued as he described someone as “Arabic”, a language. The correct description would be Arab. Every woman was described by nothing more than her looks, whilst we learnt about the men by their personalities. To prove that most characters were Londoners, they constantly spoke with rhyming slang, almost like caricatures. It got to the point it was hard to read because every other word was either slang of an officers rank “DC” this and “DS” that with cups of Rosie-Lee mixed in. The dialogue was robotic, and I couldn’t find myself interested in the characters. They all seemed extremely one dimensional.

I wish I could say that the plot offered some relief from the horror of the writing, but it was lazy. Again, poorly researched and ended in the most disappointing way possible. I was interested as it started, but it became more and more unrealistic and unimaginable as it went on. It had some excellent ideas and firm foundations, but it just felt lazy in the end. It was littered with very noticeable plot holes, not just one or two of them. Nothing was tied up, and no suspense led anywhere. It was the poorly executed leftovers of an idea with so much potential.

I tried to explain the entire plot to my wife and friends orally, and by the end of it, we were all more confused than when we started.

Shining glory: The horror was horrific, and the gore was disgusting (in the right way.) At times it makes you shudder at the sheer dread of it all.

Fatal flaw: The entire thing reads like a biased hate novel, even though you’re not sure exactly who or what the author hates. Everyone? Everything? Quite possibly.

Read this if: I cannot in good faith recommend this book for anyone to read, for any reason. The bigoted writing style and choices make it impossible to think it’s a good idea to continue funding him through sales of this book.

Skip this if: You want an inclusive read that doesn’t feel like it’s straight out of the 1980s. You don’t like gory horror or want your stories to have plots without noticeable gaps.


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