Fresh Meat: Shadow People by James Swain

Shadow People by James Swain is a supernatural urban fantasy and the follow-up to Dark Magic (available June 11, 2013).

What do you see when you turn out the lights during a séance? If you are Peter Warlock, a magician by day, a psychic by night, you see shadow people. Every Friday night, Peter and his group of psychic friends conduct a séance. In these séances, spirits transport him on a dark journey to a parallel world.

On one particular night, Peter sees a dark, faceless apparition. He then ventures to the dark side where he meets a man in a basement who has a handgun, a hunting knife, handcuffs, black hood, and chloroform. Doing what he always does to help him remember whom the spirits show him, he gives the man the nickname Dr. Death.

With a name like “Dr. Death,” your imagination might be inclined to conjure up your typical evil person in just about every supernatural horror film. Not this time. Dr. Death looks like your ordinary professor type.

On the other side of the basement, an overweight man wearing corduroy pants and a blazer with sandy patches on the elbows stood by the worktable. He had a neatly trimmed beard and glasses, and looked like a college professor. He was also talking to himself, and had no idea that Peter was there. Peter found the man’s appearance odd. Normally, the people he encountered on the other side were downright evil and engaged in unspeakable acts. This fellow wasn’t even mildly scary, and Peter wondered if the spirits had dropped him in the wrong house.

Peter watches as Dr. Death discovers a pearl necklace in his pocket. The old man proceeds to a dresser to return the jewelry. He begins to open each drawer, naming women’s names who, Peter realizes with dawning horror, are Dr. Death’s victims. Contained in each drawer are the personal belongings of Mary, Joan, Kelly, Diane, Christine, and Edie, the pearls’ former owner. This wasn’t just a dresser. It was a trophy collection of a serial killer.

Author James Swain set the template for Peter’s actions with the spirit world in the first Peter Warlock story, Dark Magic. Peter is a psychic, can read minds, and see into the future. He uses these visions of the future to give the police anonymous tips to prevent crimes before they happen. In the course of Dark Magic, Peter collects information that he gives to his FBI contact, Special Agent Garrison, and leaves it up to the federal man to investigate all the while leaving Peter and his friends safely anonymous.

Peter is usually an invisible observer of the criminal in these spirit journeys. So Peter thinks nothing of following Dr. Death outside to his vehicle in order to get a license plate number. What sets this event apart from the others is that Dr. Death tries to run over Peter, then rolls down his window, looks directly at Peter, and says, “Thought I didn’t know you were there, didn’t you?”

Well, that changes the equation, doesn’t it?

The book gets its title from the dark, faceless apparition in the séance room. One of his friends, who is blind no less, informs Peter that the apparition is a shadow person, a creature that can attach itself to a human and make their existence a living hell. Most people see the shadow people only out of the corner of their eyes, a blip before disappearing. If you see one fully, it is seeking you out. Now Peter has two problems: he must figure out the real identity of Dr. Death before the killer murders his next victim, and he needs to determine what the shadow person wants with him. Assisting in this challenge is his girlfriend of two years, Liza. She is the first girlfriend Peter has had who did not run after discovering Peter’s dark talent. This book explores their relationship as well as uncovering family secrets from Peter’s past.

Like all good blockbusters, this was an edge-of-your-seat, exciting, thrilling novel, with a healthy dose of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. I look forward to Peter’s next adventure.

Last year, when I went to Houston’s Murder by the Book to attend the author event for Dark Magic, I learned that Swain is an established magician and illusionist. He performed a magic show right there in the bookstore. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, was amazed by his magic skills, and I highly recommend you attend one of his events if he’s ever in your town.

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

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Vanessa L. Parker is a jewelry artist and avid reader. You can see her work at Betoj Designs.

Read all posts by Vanessa Parker for Criminal Element.

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