The Shadow Side
It’s been a so-so few months of reading for me. Fortunately I can say The Shadow Side by Linda Castillo has been a high point, and makes me eager to read her previous book The Perfect Victim which has been on my TBR pile for ages.
The story opens with a brutal murder/suicide and the cops notifying the victims’ next of kin, Adam Boedecker. Adam is on leave from the Chicago police department as a result of a shooting, but he doesn’t let that stop him from weaseling in on the investigation. He plays on the guilt his former partner feels for stealing Adam’s wife after the shooting so he can get access to the crime scene. Adam knows his brother wasn’t the type to commit murder and then take his own life, and he’s out to prove it. The only clue he has is that his brother was taking a new antidepressant, Valazine.
Dr. Elizabeth “Eli” Barnes, was part of the development team at Roth Pharmaceuticals of the new wonder drug Valazine. She won a prestigious award as a result of her work and is happy to see ten years of devotion and late nights finally paying off. She believes in the drug and her research, and is offended when Adam shows up at her office blaming the drug for the death of his brother, sister-in-law, and several others. He brings a pile of newspapers articles about previously non violent people who’ve committed murder or murder-suicides, and there’s only one connection: they were all recently prescribed the same drug. Eli doesn’t believe it and drives Adam out of her office. Yet, something niggles at her. Her scientific approach demands she research his claims and prove him wrong. She decides to visit her mentor, Dr. Walter Sanchez, only to discover him dead. Soon Eli realizes Adam’s onto something and there’s someone at Roth that is willing to kill to keep them quiet.
Adam is a classic tortured hero. Three years before the story opens he was shot in the head and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He’s gotten himself back on track – almost. Unfortunately he’s only starting to realize that his life will never be the same and come to terms with the fact that he can’t go back to being a street cop. This unauthorized investigation may be the last chance to prove to himself that he can be a good cop and work a case. As he deals with Eli he can see himself making mistakes, but he can’t stop himself from coming across as too emotional and heavy handed. Since he can’t control himself, he’s sure he’s about to lose his job, and he’s already got one failed marriage under his belt, Adam sees himself as a bad bet and does his best to push Eli away.
Eli has her own skeletons. She’s devoted to her work because it’s safe. No emotional involvement, and her work can’t hurt her. She also has a strong motivation to find a way to help people with depression; she hopes no one will have to suffer like she did growing up with a bi-polar mother. Eli’s convinced herself she doesn’t need anyone, especially a surly cop from Chicago. Adam gets under her skin and makes her realize the job isn’t everything.
It’s interesting watching Adam and Eli re-evaluate their priorities in life. The only problem with the relationship is it does take a bit of a backstage role to the mystery. While all the clues are there and the mystery aspect is strong, it takes Eli a hair too long to come around. Her mentor is murdered, she’s attacked, and Adam keeps bringing her stories about people who take Valazine and commit murder or suicide and Eli’s keeps saying he’s wrong. For a smart woman her continued skepticism despite continued evidence stretches credibility.
The Shadow Side isn’t light; it is a dark and angsty read, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed when I finished it. Castillo gives the reader hope that Adam and Eli can find their happily ever after. It’s a strong emotional offering and if you’re a fan of romantic suspense, I urge you to give Castillo a try.