By David Calcutt
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 978 0 19 272880 7
To be really believable and disturbing, a good psychological thriller must be firmly rooted in the ordinary. The reader has to believe it could all happen to him or her. When life as we know it is disturbed by something spooky, the shivers begin. David Calcutt knows this and he begins Shadow Bringer with an ordinary teenager going about his daily business. But Nathan's life is about to change, and his world will soon be a much darker place.
There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about Nathan. He's not particularly happy because his parents have separated and his mum has gone on holiday to sort herself out. Nathan is staying with his aunt, uncle and granddad. Things will be different at home now his dad has left, but Nathan knows he will have to cope.
Nathan is taking the dog for a walk when he suddenly gets the feeling he is being watched. But there is nobody around. He glimpses a black shape in the sky - it's not a kite or a rubbish bag, it's too transparent for that. The shape vanishes and seems to drop into a nearby lime pit.
Over the next few days, the feeling that something menacing and dangerous is watching him grows stronger in Nathan's mind. He is going through a difficult time with his parents' situation anyway, but this feeling that there is something out there waiting and watching refuses to go away.
Nathan even starts to hear noises in his aunt and uncle's empty attic. His granddad unwittingly tells him stories about the Bogeyman which disturb Nathan even more. Something dark and impossible to identify, but with evil intent, is haunting him, and Nathan has no one to turn to for help.
Shadow Bringer is a tight and powerful psychological thriller written in realistic detail that makes the skin prickle. This could happen to any one of us. Does Nathan feel afraid only because of emotional pressure, or is something really stalking him?
To Calcutt's great credit, no easy answers are provided to destroy Nathan's fears. Shadow Bringer is a strong story with a believably drawn central character that most teenagers will identify with and recognise. Calcutt piles on the sense of menace and unease steadily throughout the book, and the mix of magic and reality that eventually surfaces is expertly handled.
Shadow Bringer is a brave and unusual novel about a teenager facing fear; a gripping and emotionally engaging read that taps into things that we all feel.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com