A sixteen-year old girl holds a gun to her head at the scene of a grisly triple homicide. She claims “The Stranger” killed her adoptive family, that hes’s been following her all her life, killing everyone she ever loved, and that no one believes her. But Special Agent Smoky Barrett does. Her team has been hand-picked from amont the nation’s elite law enforcement specialists and they are as obsessed and relentless as the psychos they hunt; they’ll have to be to deal with this case.
For another vicious double homicide reveals a killer embarked on a dark crusade of trauma and death: an “artist” who’s molding Sarah into the perfect victim - and the ultimate weapon. To catch him, Smoky is going to have to put her own fragile, once-shattered life on the line. For The Stranger is all too real, all too close, and all too determined. And when he finally shows his face, Smoky had better be ready to face her worst fear.
Let me first preface this by saying - this book may not be for everyone. I am a huge fan of shows like The First 48, and growing up in Wisconsin, we have had our fair share of nasty killers, most notably Jeffrey Dahmer. Mr. McFadyen does something few authors have been able to do for me - he has actually made me cry during a portion of this book. I will not go into details, but it involves the events of Sarah’s 6th birthday - heart wrenching, to say the very least.
As strange as this may sound, this review is hard for me to write. Not because I don’t have a lot to say but because I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone. This book is being placed in my top 10 books of 2008 for sure, and without going back to check my list I would say it was in the top 2 or 3. Even though it is almost 600 pages long, once I started reading I had a VERY hard time putting it down. His prose, in my mind, is comparable to one of the greatest writers of our time - Stephen King. Like King, the description of not only the events, but of the characters, leaves no room for doubt - you feel as if you are standing there witnessing things firsthand, and like these characters are people that you really know. This is something that is a rare find in an author, and should be truly commended, whether you like the subject matter of the book or not.
I think the hardest part for me was that initially no one believes Sarah. This poor 6 year old witnesses something beyond my wildest imagination, and when trying to tell the police about it she is dismissed as confused. My heart was literally breaking for this poor innocent child. Once you read this, you will realize not only why she isn’t believed (the killer does a good job of covering his tracks and making things look other than what they are), and then you will realize how deep corruption can go. He also demonstrates how far the human mind can go without actually breaking - Sarah’s journey is fraught with such evil, and yet she somehow keeps at least a shred of sanity.
Don’t get me wrong, this book isn’t ALL about murder (although to be honest the vast majority is fairly gruesome). The relationship between Smoky and her team is fabulous - even James who is “the odd man out”. As Smoky herself says “He can peer into the mind of a killer and not blink. He can gaze at evil full in the face and then pick up a magnifying glass to get a closer look.” This is the same ability Smoky has, which makes her the best in the business. And, she needs someone with that same ability to bounce ideas off of - no matter how difficult he is to work with. Bonnie, Elaina, Alan, and Callie are all very developed and you grow to really get a feel for the relationship between all of them. And despite all of the horror they have all been through…literally…this has helped them to form a bond of friendship and love that is beautiful.
On that note, I would like to talk about something in the book that I feel was my favorite part. No, no, it really has nothing to do with the murders at all. It has to do with Matt (Smoky’s dead husband) and Smoky’s legacy to their daughter Alexa (I must read Cody’s first book to find out what happened here…I must, I must, I must!!!). They weren’t wealthy, but wanted to make sure they could leave her something if anything ever happened to them, something that maybe wasn’t worth a lot of money, but truly spoke of who they were as people. And what might that be, you ask? They create a library for her, and add to it whenever they can. I have been doing the same thing for my daughters - granted, it started before they were born because I am such a bibliophile, but I think it is such a great idea. What better gift to give anyone, than a library full of books?! Love it, love it, love it!
Truly a must read for anyone - queasy stomachs beware!
About the author:
Cody Mcfadyen was born in Texas in 1968. He designed websites before selling his first novel, Shadow Man, in 2005. He has since had a second book – The Face of Death – published. Both were international best sellers. He lives in Southern California with his two black labs, often referred to as ‘The Black Forces of Destruction.’ He drinks coffee (copiously), plays guitar (badly), and reads (voraciously). He abhors adverbs in writing, except when used in short bios like this one.
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