Title: Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
After years of paying her dues on the force, Beth Sturgis has earned her place as a detective for the Robbery-Homicide division of the Atlanta PD. Now, she’s heading up a major manhunt for a potential serial killer who’s working his way inward from the outskirts of the city. The copycat elements in the first crime scene lead Sturgis to retired FBI agent Jack Kale, who was responsible for apprehending and nearly killing the murderer known as the Scarecrow, the same Scarecrow who appears to be this new killer’s terrible inspiration.
A reclusive single father and university professor, Kale is trying to keep the demons at bay through therapy and avoidance. That is, until Sturgis shows up asking for his help. Against his better judgment, Kale is drawn into the most dangerous cat and mouse game of his life. Robert Daniels’s Once Shadows Fall, is a gripping thriller in the bestselling tradition of Silence of the Lambs and is sure to become a crime fiction classic.
Robert Daniels’ debut mystery Once Shadows Fall is a riveting psychological thriller about a series of copycat murders. The original killer is safely locked away in a mental facility so when Detective Beth Sturgis notices similarities in a current case, she contacts the agent who worked the original case, now retired FBI profiler Jack Kale. Despite his reluctance to assist her, Beth gently coerces Jack into lending his considerable expertise to the investigation.
New to the robbery-homicide division, Beth is assigned as the lead detective to the grisly murder. A little out of her depth, she is hoping Jack’s insight into the mind of serial killer Dr. Howard Pell aka Scarecrow will help her capture the copycat killer. After taking a quick look at Kale’s FBI folder, she is rather confused about the series of events that led to his retirement, but this does not stop her from tracking him down. He offers invaluable insight that leads to overlooked evidence at the crime scene, but when she returns to ask him to take a look at what they uncovered, he immediately shuts her down. After a little underhandedly maneuvering by Beth, Jack eventually joins the investigation as a consultant. Jack and Beth, along with the other Atlanta PD detectives, remain one step behind the diabolical killer as they are in a race against time to locate his next victims before it is too late.
Although Beth is extremely intelligent, her inexperience shows as she begins her investigation. She is a determined and tenacious detective but in her eagerness to prove herself, she makes a few strategic errors. Bold with a hint of fearlessness, she interviews Pell with ease and while he does not reveal new information, Beth picks up on a few clues that take the investigation in a rather unexpected direction. After making a precipitous decision about the wrong person, she makes every effort to ensure her facts are correct before bringing new theories to the rest of the team. In doing so, Beth unwittingly places herself in danger but she remains cool under pressure and refuses to give up on getting herself out of what appears to be a hopeless situation.
Jack is a brilliant profiler with an uncanny knack for putting the most miniscule clues into the proper context which leads to some fairly astute predictions of the killer’s next move. But the investigation of Pell’s crimes years earlier left a horrific mark on him and Jack has only just begun to put those events behind him. He still continues to suffer from PTSD and although his anxiety is much improved, he remains plagued by nightmares and panic attacks. His involvement with the current case brings his unresolved issues to the surface and his new co-workers cannot help but worry that Jack will become a liability to the current investigation.
The murders are macabre and each new victim is subjected to horrific torture. With no clear motive for the crimes and very little evidence, the police have no suspect but it soon becomes painstakingly clear that Pell is somehow involved with the deaths. Trying to find the connection takes valuable time that is nearly impossible to spare, but with dogged determination, the investigators meticulously follow all leads until they discover the killer’s identity.
Once Shadows Fall is a fiendishly clever police procedural with an intriguing storyline. Although there are a few similarities to other novels in the genre, Robert Daniels does a fantastic job of keeping the plot fresh and unique with unexpected twists, turns and revelations. The novel thunders to a pulse pounding and satisfying conclusion that will leave readers hoping Once Shadows Fall is the first of many mysteries starring Jack Kale and Beth Sturgis.