Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read

Standing in the Shadows – Jon Stasiak

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

Tom Nowak is a photographer for the Jersey Evening Post, the local newspaper, but he does freelance work too and is planning his first exhibition of his work. He lives with his girlfriend, a nurse and life is certainly better than it was now that the break-up with his wife is in the past and on the mainland, Tom is free to appreciate the different way of life offered in Jersey.

When his oldest childhood friend comes for a visit a walk is planned in the local woods. Nothing odd there, a perfectly normal Sunday activity. Tom as always takes his camera and when viewing the photos back later, can see shadowy figures that weren’t visible to the group at the time they were posing. The next day a body is found, in the same spot that the group of friends stood and Tom is dispatched in his role of press photographer back to the scene. By the time he arrives it is common knowledge that this is a murder enquiry, the dead woman a Polish woman who’d moved to Jersey for a better way of life.

Now before I go any further with this review, I need to restate that I am not a fan of the paranormal, at all. Rarely do I keep reading when this phenomenon rears its head, but I kept going for two reasons: This book is set where I live and I rarely get an opportunity to read a crime novel set on an island with very little crime, and secondly, this is my last of my 20 books of summer 2016 – yes I know summer is long over but I was determined to make my way through the books I selected before the end of the year!

In short it appears that Tom is receiving predictions of murders through his photographs and he becomes more and more obsessed with the idea that he can help prevent more murders (the bodies keep coming) and give comfort to the grieving families. Although as I kept reading I got annoyed with Tom, as does his girlfriend, and friends as endless pages are taken up with his feelings, endless justification of letting his life slide as he reviews and re-reviews his photos which for me was fortunately broken up with accurate descriptions of an island that has been my home for over a quarter of a century.

Although the author doesn’t even attempt to describe the local politics in this book he covers many other truisms about Jersey like the fact that one of the private boy’s schools looks more like Hogwarts, than Hogwarts; when we have visitors arriving by plane, we all leave town at the expected landing time because the time to drive there is usually a perfect match to how long it takes for people to disembark and pick up their bags; we all have Jersey airport arrivals as a favourite webpage not least because of the fog which disrupts life constantly!  For those of us who live here for real, we’re lucky and don’t have a vast number of crime but the drunks in the beautiful park opposite the hospital are a permanent fixture, when I came to the island their predecessors were glue sniffers and the couple that won’t, or are unable to abide by the shelter rules sleep behind cars in the car-park around the corner, these truisms are deftly worked into the plot. However, because the story is local some of the author’s beliefs feel a bit too personal, as Tom remarks early on, you have to check that who you are speaking to, is not related to or friends with, the person you are making snide remarks about here. I definitely found it harder to be objective about details which would probably wash over me if the setting wasn’t one I know so intimately.

So although the plot dragged for reasons which I will put down to my antipathy for the paranormal aspects I was pleased I persevered because the ending was both a surprise and made some of my complaints about earlier sections of the book irrelevant thus boosting my overall enjoyment. Those of you who don’t have issues with ghosts and Ghoulies may enjoy this atmospheric read even more than I did.

First Published UK: 20 December2015
Publisher: Independent publishing
No of Pages: 322
Genre: Crime Fiction – Paranormal
Amazon UK
Amazon US