Shadow Sands (2020) by Robert Bryndza

Simon Kendal was a strong swimmer – there was no reason for him to have drowned when swimming in the Shadow Sands reservoir. When Kate Marshall finds his body floating in it, accidental death is the first assumption, but Simon’s mother asks Kate to look further. Having caught the Nine Elms Cannibal (and his copycat), she has garnered a sufficient reputation and decides to look into matters.

It soon becomes apparent that Shadow Sands is the site of many disappearances that have been overlooked over the past years, and when a colleague goes missing, Kate realises that she is in a race against time to find her before the killer claims another victim…

I rather enjoyed Nine Elms. The soap opera elements – having a son with her boss/lover/cannibal – surprisingly seemed to work, and the finale, while being a tad on the unrealistic side, was fun. I was curious how the series would continue – after all, the cannibal can’t escape every book. It reminded me of a book I read an age ago about an investigator whose brother was a serial killer who he’d go to for advice on his current case when his brother wasn’t out on a rampage. I wasn’t a fan of that book, but I found Kate a more sympathetic character so was hopeful for this series.

In the afterword, the author states that he originally planned not to include the cannibal in this book at all, but apparently readers loved him so much (!) he does make an appearance, and yes, it’s to give some advice to our heroine. But without this element, the book is a perfectly adequate thriller but is lacking any sort of distinctive hook.

At the moment, I’m really in the market for a modern book that wows me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoilt the past couple of months – Moonflower Murders, The Thursday Murder Club, for example – maybe it’s because of the current worldwide tribulations and a personal thing giving me the attention span of a hyperactive goldfish… well, this didn’t wow me. As I said, it’s a perfectly adequate thriller that fans of the genre will enjoy, but for me… no, it didn’t grab me. And the nature of the villain’s crimes is so unredeemably unpleasant, well that didn’t help either.

So, if you like serial killer thrillers with sympathetic leads, then do take a look. But I think it’s time for me to take a break from the genre.

Shadow Sands is out on 3rd November in hardback and ebook from Sphere. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the review copy.

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