The Shadow People (CD Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel #3), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Graham Masterton’s newest police procedural series has me eager to delve deeper into the dark world he creates. Tapping into some unique cases with perspectives I have not encountered before, Masterton grips the reader and presents something that will keep them up well into the night. When a number of homeless people around Tooting go missing, the authorities take notice, baffled as to where they might have gone. After discovering a large pile of bones, stripped and scorched, people begin to wonder if there is a group who have used the homeless in experiments, or at least feasted upon them. After DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel are called in, it appears that it is a sadistic cult with ties to an ancient deity. Pardoe and Patel will have to work with their colleagues to uncover it all before more bodies disappear. Masterton proves yet again that he is a master of the genre!

A handful of homeless across Tooting go missing, which soon reaches the radar of the local authorities. Where could they have gone, and what could make them depart? While working an unrelated case, some of the local police come upon a collection of bones, scorched and stripped down. While it is not entirely clear immediately, they are soon attributed to the homeless. Indications are that it could be tied to a religious cult, as there are markings close to the bones that are not easily identified.

When the case takes a significant turn, DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel are called in to assist, having worked on some of Tooting’s past complicated cases. While following some of the leads, Pardoe and Patel learn that there are potential ties to an ancient cult with roots in Pakistan, a place Patel knows much about from her family connections. Pardoe follows her lead, but is keen to carve his own niche into the case.

After a few others disappear, Pardoe and Patel speak to some of the locals and discover a young boy who has spent time with the group. He is unable to speak clearly, but rather grunts and appears unable to push out basic words. Is there a drug the group is administering to its captives or could this be a new language the group uses to communicate, protecting itself from others? Pardoe and Patel will have to work every angle to ensure they can locate the group and apprehend them. Trouble is, the ruthlessness of the leaders could lead to significant bloodshed. Masterton dazzles in a dark and sadistic fashion!

Graham Masterton keeps tapping into deeper and more complex ideas related to procedurals, layering history and ethnic references within an already strong narrative. I found myself drawn to the stories from the opening pages of the first novel and have not been able to stop as the series has progressed. There are well-developed characters throughout, shedding light on a number of intriguing perspectives, which educates and entertains the reader in equal measure. Masterton invests a great deal of time and effort to keep the stories unique, tied to historical goings-on, that permit the reader to explore more on the subject, should they wish to do so.

DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel remains constant protoganists with much to prove. They work well together while still providing their own backstories with regular moments of development throughout. Moments of personal growth finds its way into the narrative, including moments of personal connection between the protagonists, but this does not distract from the larger story. Both bring unique skills to the investigation, which offers perspectives that aid in solving the case at hand. The array of characters permits the reader to feel the depth Masterton surely hopes to convey.

Graham Masterton does have some dark and highly graphic ideas that make their way into each of his novels. However, it is not simply for the fear factor, but rather to help add to the impact to the case at hand. The narrative flows with ease, although there are surely moments when the detailed goings-on of the cannibal group forces a slow and meandering description. The characters have been created to pass along a message and Masterton is highly effective in this throughout. Plot twists fuel an already strong story and keep the reader flipping pages well into the night. Masterton offers historical references and social commentary for all to enjoy, forcing a moment to think and synthesise, rather than numbly reading.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for this unique reading experience. I am eager to see if you have more to offer for this series. I will have to wait for a time, I suppose.