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The Shadowkiller F U L L  R E V I E W S

(Feb./Mar. 2007)

"I've no doubt that some readers will raise an eyebrow over my inclusion of this book alongside reviews of standard mystery and crime novels. But as I've said many times before, the singer counts more than the song. Matthew Scott Hansen's first fictional production is written more in thriller style than horror, and thus qualifies for that gray area commonly known as "hybrid." Fans of thriller novels might miss out on a pretty darn good book if it was treated as strictly horror and excluded from examination. There is, after all, a police investigation driving part of the story.

Deconstructed to basics, the storyline is simplistically presented—a huge, bloodthirsty humanoid emerges from the mountains surrounding greater Snohomish County, Washington suburbia and begins to kill (and eat) unsuspecting campers, hikers, and woods-dwellers. The beast is sentient to some degree, lightning fast, and possesses the capability to locate prey by tracking fear emanations. The fact that no one really takes the Bigfoot legend seriously works in its favor—only rational reasons and motives are considered when people start to disappear. A handful of protagonists gradually come to terms with their belief system, and work toward stopping the rampaging beast.

While the plot is the relatively standard monster-eat-'em-up fare we've come to expect, Hansen's careful, methodical character development coupled with better than average writing skill carries the reader along with ease. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, including the beast it/himself. Most interesting, however, are the humans. Ty Greenwood is a multimillionaire software executive who has an encounter with the beast, and survives. No one believes him, and his obsession with proving the existence of the critter has a disastrous effect on his wife and family. Greenwood's character resonates to some degree with mashed-potato-stacker Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The second good character is Snohomish County Sheriff Mac Schneider, a transplanted Los Angeleno whose investigation of missing hikers gradually changes his perspective regarding the existence of the forest monsters. Finally, aging but well-known Native American actor Ben Campbell, of the Humboldt County Tsnungwe tribe, receives dream-signals that force him to leave a film in progress in order to face the beast and regain his cultural pride. Interacting with these three main protagonists are a variety of other characters, some developed and some monster fodder.

Although I've retained my love for horror films over more than half a century now, I've generally lost interest in most horror literature that relies on monster attacks, gore and body parts. While the author of this book doesn't go out of his way to minimize the violence of man-monster encounters, he wisely centers his tale on aspects of societal response—general skepticism and mockery, rejection of those who question the norm, attempts to find rational answers. The result is a strikingly complicated and nuanced novel, one that surprised, delighted, and kept me turning the pages."

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