Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
I first came across Darren Shan’s writing when I worked as a bookseller in Edinburgh nearly ten years ago. ‘The Saga of Darren Shan’ books were incredibly popular with Edinburgh’s kids and I’m vaguely aware that a film of The Vampire’s Assistant came out a few years ago. So it was with interest that I sat down to read Lady of the Shades. There’s always that worry when successful children’s authors turn to adult fiction – will it be easy to guess the ending, will the writing be too simplistic etc. – but I found Lady of the Shades an absorbing novel.
I’ll come right out and say that I’m not a believer in ghosts and the paranormal/supernatural [I’m far too rational and boring], but I do enjoy some books that incorporate those elements. I’m a huge fan of John Connolly’s ‘Charlie Parker’ series for example. Lady of the Shades is a cleverly plotted novel whose hero, Ed, is an American author in London trying to write his next bestseller. As we discover, Ed wasn’t always a writer but his life experiences have led him to explore the paranormal and he longs to believe in ghosts and wants answers to all his questions about death and the afterlife – think Mulder from The X Files meets Melinda Gordon from Ghost Whisperer. When he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman who is married to a vicious mobster, he is forced into confronting life again (and, more importantly, aspects of his past), but in more dangerous ways than he’d expected.
Lady of the Shades is a cleverly narrated book. Can Ed really see ghosts or is the narrative an exploration into one man’s disintegration into madness and violence? Is he being manipulated or is he the only one who can help a desperate woman? As the publisher’s blurb puts it, ‘nothing is certain and no one is quite what they seem’. What is certain, however, is that Darren Shan’s first outing into adult fiction has produced a surprising and enjoyable read. Let’s hope it’s not his last.