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Shadow People by James Swain
Cover Artist: Trevillian Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765329950
Date: 11 June 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

During a sťance with his psychic friends, famous New York magician Peter Warlock (real name is Peter Warren) learns there is a serial killer, Dr. Death, who preys on righteous women. Peter, with the help of his girlfriend, Liza, and an FBI agent, Garrison, must find Dr. Death before he kills his next target, Rachael, who is destined to make advancements in the medical field, saving millions of lives. During his search, Peter is harassed by destructive spirits known as shadow people; he struggles to control his anger and prevent the unleashing of the demon that has possessed him since birth; and he learns dark, horrible secrets about his childhood. Once again, he must also battle the Order of Astrum, a cult of devil worshippers responsible for the murder of his parents.

James Swain's Shadow People (following Dark Magic) is another installment in the modern Gothic soap opera centered on the adventures of magician Peter Warlock. He has the charming, attractive appearance of a young David Copperfield but the cursed, haunted life of a grown Harry Potter. Like Harry Potter, Peter's parents died when he was young; he was raised by his parents' psychic friends, chiefly Max Romero and Milly Adams. (Unlike Harry, Peter wasn't abused.) Peter speaks to ghosts and can read minds. The Order of Astrum, similar to Lord Voldemort and his followers, is always trying to destroy him. Peter is adored and loved by several women, namely Liza and Milly's niece, Holly. This is a love triangle that will probably exist throughout the series. Peter also reminds me of Dr. David Banner who turned into the Incredible Hulk whenever he became angry. When Peter becomes angry, his inner demon is unleashed and he is transformed into a hideous monster that kills.

I thought of Shadow People as a monster novel. It reminded me of those old black-and-white horror films where one monster encounters another monster, such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The serial killer, Dr. Death, also transforms into a monster whenever he feels threatened. However, the monster element, in fact, the entire serial killer plot, is small when compared to all the other subplots combined. Peter, like Samantha Stephens of the Bewitched television series, keeps promising Liza that he will try to live a normal life. He truly loves her and will do most anything to keep her safe and happy; he wants their relationship to work. It was only recently that Peter confessed to her that his psychic powers are genuine. In the meantime, he labors constantly to keep the rest of the world from learning that his talent is real. He fears he will be imprisoned by the CIA, for experimental purposes, in the same manner as his friend Nemo, who is also psychic. (Remember Charlie McGee and her dad in Stephen King's Firestarter?) Many supernatural creatures constantly fear public exposure, especially vampires who are terrified of being staked in the heart at sunrise.

Witchcraft in James Swain's Shadow People is viewed as an alternative lifestyle. Though there are many witches who are openly practicing witchcraft, it still hasn't been as widely embraced by the general public as witches would like it to be. There are some humorous moments when Holly Adams tries to conceal her witchcraft from a neighbor who is concerned about her safety. There are other tidbits of humor sprinkled throughout the story. The humor and romance remind the reader that Peter and his psychic friends are real people. Their problems, though extremely bizarre, are similar to our own.

The mystery, romance, humor, violence, suspense and gore combine to form a modern Gothic soap opera that will appeal to fans of the supernatural. Indeed, this second novel ends with several cliffhangers. For example, Peter races to a New York hospital to hear a deathbed confession. There will definitely be a sequel and all the shadow people in the world won't prevent me from reading it.

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