Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shadow Point by Amy Briant

Publisher:                Bella Books

Madison McPeake is told to take a three week vacation from her job before she gets fired, then she receives a phone call saying that her brother has died and she needs to come take custody of the five year old niece she's never met.  Things are strange from the moment she arrives in Shadow Point.  Her brother lived on a naval base that buttons up tight from dusk to dawn and his cabin has no television, phone or computer service.  The isolation is complete and accentuated by the bleakness of the area and the cabins provided for the scientists to live in.  The two good points are Katie, who Madison falls in love with immediately even though she's not sure what to do with her, and the only other inhabitant of the cabins, Dr. Alice Piper, known as Pipe.  Madison is intent on wrapping up affairs and getting Katie and herself out of Shadow Point as quickly as possible, but Pipe provides a real attraction to hang around.  Madison is scared though.  Some sort of presence is hanging around the cabins and she has little doubt that it means harm to all of them.  A legend says that those who die there never leave Shadow Point.  Madison is determined that she, Katie and Pipe will not discover the truth of that story.

Briant has crafted a very successful suspense story.  The tension builds gradually during the story and quickly creates the impression that something very dark is lurking just off the page and the reader can definitely feel it.  When Madison says the hairs on her neck are standing up, so will the reader's.  Her rising fear will infect the reader as the story progresses.  Briant also captures Madison's confusion very well as she tries to deal with a child, whatever is going on at Shadow Point and her increasing feelings for Pipe.  Her conflict between wanting to run for her life and being strong for Katie gives the character depth.

Something worth mentioning is the cover for this book.  Often the art work on a book seems to have little if anything to do with a story.  The brooding nature of this cover is perfect however and starts setting the mood before the book is even opened.

The weaknesses in the book are probably due to a new writer who is still developing her skill.  The relationship between Madison and Pipe develops just too quickly, especially as distracted as Madison is with everything.  The only thing missing from their encounter is the U-Haul.  The book also doesn't sustain the suspense very well at the end.  After building the story so masterfully, the end is actually anticlimactic.  The fear factor through the book should have made for a much more daring ending.

Shadow Point is a very strong debut novel for Amy Briant.  It's a good example of how to build a story without rushing to the major points.  For those who love a spooky story, this one is worth reading.

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