Book Review – When Shadows Fall by J.T. Ellison

I’ve been looking around for psychological thrillers by this author as her name was thrown among the list of authors allegedly praiseworthy in this genre. A lover of psychological thrillers ( ahem: me) always looks forward to the recurring instruments used, i.e., unreliable narrators, alcohol(sometimes)-induced blackouts and the like, with increasing anticipation at how they are eventually executed. I was ever so slightly skeptical when I held the paperback in my hands. The cover design didn’t feature your typical “lady in a red dress” or “a pair of all-seeing eyes” (you know what I’m talking about – the book version of a “clickbait”). In fact, the color scheme didn’t even scream “modern”, but looked 10 to 20 years before its time. With that lowered expectation in mind, I took the plunge..

Samantha Owens is a pathologist. Having performed autopsies on bodies for a long time now, she recently retired to teaching. On the first day of work, she receives a letter from a man, telling her that he has died and asks of her help to solve his death. Things escalate quickly and she gets caught up in this mystery as people who are involved starts dying. Together with her ex-FBI colleagues and her ex-armed-forces boyfriend, she rushes to uncover the mystery.

Writing makes for easy reading and the occasional nuggets of interesting romantic developments, unexpected plot twists and outlandish point-of-view from the characters kept me going. I felt that the characters were not exceptionally well developed and some parts were unbelievable. However, the ease of reading and unexpected developments somehow makes up for it. Don’t come here expecting a huge plot twist or unreliable narration though, most of the characters are pretty honest.

The main characters, Samantha (or Sam as it is often referred to in the story), as well as her FBI friend Fletcher are very likable ones. This is one story where it’s pretty much good vs. evil, not much grey area.

On the downside for me, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the intricacies of the main sub-plot. There were characters like Doug, Detective Frederick, and a whole bunch whom I can’t remember the names of. Ellison tries to explain through Sam and Fletcher how they were involved and even throws in a final chapter adding ” I guess by now you know I killed…..” as if to point me in the right direction, but it was still very confusing for me. I know I’m supposed to go “aha!”, but my brain went “huh?” on me. Eventually, I realized you didn’t really need to know; so just skim past those parts, I promise it will be okay.

Rating: 3.5/5 (decent read, moderately interesting, falls short on character development, not really typical of a psychological thriller, somewhat confusing in the details)

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