Sam MacNamara, former cop, private investigator, and candidate for a psychology Ph.D., is hired to work with a young cult survivor – who is mysteriously pregnant, despite being on lockdown. Her fiancé and partner, Reece Hash is asked to take another look at a number of closed sudden-death cases that, in retrospect, look suspicious – or is his boss merely trying to make the police look bad?
SHADOW TAG is an intriguing, clever little story with three main threads that intertwine more and more as the story continues. Sam’s case and Reece’s case both play to their background stories and heartstrings, Sam’s because the case involves a survivor of a cult she investigated and brought to light, and Reece’s because he is being asked to investigate police officers whom he respects, and fears being considered a backstabbing traitor to them. A mysterious journal completes the set, offering us a look at an idyllic bayou childhood gone horribly wrong. But there’s more to each case than meets the eye, and as the story goes on, the reader gets more and more drawn into each story. All three story threads are engaging enough on their own to keep the reader entertained, with plenty of plot twists and developments that not only engage the mind but also, at times, wrench the heart.
An astute reader can make some educated guesses about where the journal’s author fits into the story, and their identity is revealed rather too casually, perhaps, for the greatest effect – but the author has done an excellent job of making characters that the reader can genuinely care about, and the journal’s story remains both suspenseful and emotionally forceful. Sam and Reece’s assistants, Eli and Danny, are a brother-sister pair who have each survived traumatic situations of their own, which likewise informs their participation in the cases and their sympathy for the young cult survivor Fadiya. Eli is autistic, which is for the most part sensitively handled, showing him as a complex human being with both advantages and disadvantages from being on the spectrum, and as a sympathetic and likeable person who genuinely cares about and wants to help others. SHADOW TAG also offers some food for thought on philosophical grounds, debating important moral questions in the context of the story without preaching, and showing the real human cost of choices made by the characters. It’s a very well-designed mystery, all in all, with both head and heart, and a lively plot to drive it.
L.E. Fraser’s SHADOW TAG is a suspenseful, thoughtful mystery with complex characters and carefully-designed plot twists that will keep readers on their toes until the conclusion.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader