The Shadow People – Graham Masterton

Title: The Shadow People
Author: Graham Masterton
Published byHead of Zeus
Publication date: 9th Dec 2021
Genre: Horror
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
SourceNetGalley

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Blurb/Synopsis

Jerry Pardoe and Jamila Patel hunt down a ritualistic cult inspired by Neolithic cannibals in the new chilling horror from Graham Masterton.

Det. Sgt. Jamila Patel and Det. Con. Jerry Pardoe have reluctantly acquired a reputation in the Metropolitan Police for their ability to tackle bizarre and apparently supernatural crimes. Now they have been called back together after three bodies are found in a London basement… bodies which have been taken apart, roasted and eaten.

The markings on the wall suggest this might have been done by some kind of religious cult – and as more people are kidnapped and cannibalised, Patel and Pardoe realise they are dealing with a group of devil-worshippers invoking an ancient god who has not been worshipped since the Neolithic age…

Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

When reading a Graham Masterton novel there are certain things you should automatically expect. Depictions of graphic violence, body horror, torture, mutilation, vengeful spirits, and (most of the time) questionable sex; often intermingled with the aforementioned elements on this list. I first came across Graham Masterton’s writing when I was in my mid to late teens, and have only ever found myself enjoying his works. There is always an element of shock and awe to his stories that has often left me breathless and wanting to read more – just to see how dark and depraved he can get! The Shadow People, for me, felt relatively tame when compared to the horror novels he was producing in the 90s – or maybe I am just too jaded and over-exposed to the grim aspects of his work! If you’ve never read Masterton before and read The Shadow People, please let me know your thoughts?

The Shadow People follows Det. Sgt. Jamila Patel and Det. Con. Jerry Pardoe – I believe that these are new characters – as they investigate the discovery of a cannibalistic cult that has wrapped its fingers around the homeless community in South London. With their reputation for solving murders with a supernatural, quirky, and extremely violent slant to them, it’s no real surprise that they were called in when human bodies and heads were found in a derelict building being cooked on make-shift BBQs.

The main characters, DS Patel and DC Pardoe are outstandingly written; with their own sense of personality. Their individual specialisms, Patel with her religious upbringing and knowledge, and Pardoe with his dry-humorous approach to life. I found the contrast in their characters worked particularly well together and kept them engaging to read about – whilst they’re dealing with the horrors that are thrown at them. There are hints at a back story shared in other cases which made me wonder if there were other books in which they are featured and upon a quick bit of research, they were in two of Mastertons other books; Ghost Virus and The Children God Forgot. However, not having read these I didn’t feel that anything central was missing from The Shadow People and it works well as a stand-alone novel.

While the main protagonists are those that you root for, it’s the antagonists that make The Shadow People as intriguing as it is. They are a Cannibalistic cult that uses mind-altering drugs to ensnare people into their ways of thinking, their speech patterns consist of growls and grunts, but the way around this animalistic aspect of their nature is that they all understand one another so we’re shown the world through their eyes also. As with most Masterton books, nothing is ever really that simple and there are also elements of devil-worshipping thrown in. The incorporation of two young boys into the cult and their experiences is what made up most of the anticipated ‘shock and awe’ for me and it won’t be an easy read for those that prefer their mysteries ‘cozy.’

It did take me some time to settle into the main character, DC Pardoe, his manner of speaking relies heavily on cockney-rhyming-slang and I didn’t really find this personality trait overly believable; which does feel odd to say about a book that features a cannibalistic cult and with the events that happened towards the end of the book! I do wonder if rhyming slang is a manner in which people still speak in South London or it’s just one of those stereotypes that have lingered past its welcome? I also wonder how Non-UK audiences would take to some of the languages such as ‘Not a Sausage.’ or ‘I’m Cream-Crackered.’ I can only imagine it alienating some of the potential readerships. DC Pardoe’s sense of humour is also a bit jarring, he has a very casual approach to what he witnesses and I didn’t feel like he cared too much until the case became personal.

As mentioned earlier, to me it feels like Masterton relies on shock-value in his novels, and in The Shadow People this came in the form of his treatment of two young boys, Edward and John, who become involved in the Cannibal Cult after being abducted whilst on a Scout Camp trip. Without dipping into spoiler territory too much, these boys go through a lot at the hands of the cult and Masterton doesn’t hold back on the gory details despite the character’s young age. With Masterton, there’s absolutely no holding back on the horror.

So while I enjoyed the premise and plot, the story unfolded at a decent pace and was an enjoyable gore-ridden tale. The characters were decent and well constructed, aside from a few niggles that didn’t work for me. However, I can’t help that overall there was something missing from the novel. It’s a good read, but not a great one. Some of the sentence construction felt stiff and this carried throughout the novel. Too many ‘ands’ in lists of people. It felt like the eARC I read was a first draft of the final novel, rather than the final polished article – maybe this is the case and some of this stiffness will be edited out when the book is up for general sale. I hope so because The Shadow People is a fantastic horror novel, filled with gore, violence, and all the other ‘lovely’ elements that make up a Horror Thriller.

Summary

A brilliant introduction to the Master of Horror, filed with violence and gorey scenes that leap right off the page and keep you enthralled. Well constructed lead characters, that have their own personalities and habits, but they may have things a little too easy when it comes to the investigation aspect of novel. Not a book for those who like a comfortable mystery/thriller as the horror elements to the novel really are at centre-stage with plenty of shock-value to keep the morbid curiosity intrigued.