Book Title: Serial Killer Z: Shadows
Author: Philip Harris
Publication Date: Nov. 27, 2017
Available On: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Picking up from the cliffhanger ending of Serial Killer Z: Sanctuary, Marcus is drawn back to the city of Vancouver, Canada where he worked prior to the zombie outbreak. Since his beloved scalpels have been stolen, he is lured there by someone who must have known him before civilization fell, though he doesn’t know who. And they also know him by his real name! But for some reason, he’s lost his killer instinct, feeling an emptiness inside of him. What will he do to find it and will he be successful?
Seeing how the city of Vancouver has been transformed by the military into a safe zone was interesting to see. The connections between this novel and the stories before it come into play here, with ramifications from those novels impacting this one in surprising ways. But what was really intriguing here was that the city has been divided into those with power and influence and those who do not.
The class structure implemented between the haves and the have-nots is startling. There’s a seedy underbelly hiding underneath all that high society, some secrets that are unknown to those in the lower classes of society. This de-evolution adds an additional layer of complexity to the usual necessary survival skills one must hone just to stay alive. Watching Marcus, a loner who doesn’t mix well with others, navigate this aspect of the new world he finds himself in is highly absorbing. It presents new challenges to him that are character-based, which helps illuminate what makes him tick.
Marcus is a misguided individual who sincerely believes he has the power to release the darkness from people, using his scalpels to do so. He’s drawn to this shadow in his soul and it provides an eerie comfort to him, as it’s been a part of his world since his childhood. Now that his shadow has disappeared with the loss of his scalpels, it creates an existential crisis for him. For what is a serial killer without his killer instinct?
This heart of the plot was what I enjoyed the most, as what draws him here is Cali. As it turns out, she is someone from his past who we’ve been previously introduced to readers in the prequel story Serial Killer Z: Infection. She seeks him out for selfish reasons, as she also hides a darker side within her… and she wants Marcus’ help to unlock it!
Since he cannot find his mojo, observing their back and forth as she tries to help him unlock his own, their collective efforts to do so are enthralling to see. Since this includes killing others and experimenting with creating their own zombies, there is plenty of action revolving around these activities. It helps bring him back to memories of his childhood and his time with his mother. However fleetingly this occurred, it gave me a better understanding of Marcus’ origins and this was a welcome development of his character.
Even though the city has mostly been protected, there are plenty of zombies around as well. Both outside the walls and in, people must still work to keep them from overrunning the city. From the labor camps to the sequences about getting the zombies out of the harbor leading into the bay, these scenes are exciting and filled with obstacles that are difficult to overcome without winding up dead. And there is plenty of death to be found, both from the military brutally trying to keep citizens in line and at the hands of the zombies themselves.
The action sequences are as relentless as the zombies, even those roaming inside the less protected parts of the city. The entire novel moves at a brisk pace, deftly combining the zombie action, Marcus’ search for his shadow and the development of this new society that Marcus feels out of place in. Overall, it makes for a compelling novel that is involving and makes me want to know what is going to happen next.
Having read all three novels in the series now, I only have two complaints. The first is the larger pattern of these novels, which is becoming predictable. Without spoiling it, I will say that there is a similarity with the way each novel builds up the civilization it depicts and how difficult it is to survive in it. Then, a small amount of stability is established for the different characters and the society they all live in. By the time we reached the ending of each one, I could guess what direction the story was going to go in and it turned out I was correct. That pattern in the ending was the same each time.
This doesn’t detract from the execution and the craft of the writing itself or its characters, all of which was captivating and kept me turning the pages. But the larger plotting of the novel followed the same formula established in the other two novels. This was a bit of a disappointment and took away some of my enjoyment in reading the finale, especially once I knew where it would lead.
My second complaint is that we didn’t see enough of Marcus’ childhood to see how he became the serial killer he is today. We get some glimpses into his past and to the way his psyche works but I would have wanted to see more of that. Since this novel brings him back to face his past, I was hoping for more exploration there. Marcus is a great character and his inner conflicts on display here as he tries to rediscover his serial killer side make for enthralling psychological drama. Given that this is a series of novels, there is more opportunity to do more of this later in the series. I was hoping for a deeper origin story but instead felt like I only got pieces of one.
Overall, this is a great entry into the author’s Serial Killer Z series. I want to read more about Marcus and where his adventures take him next. This journey of continued discovery of who he is and how he can continue to function as a serial killer after the apocalyptic fall of civilization is a fascinating one that I enjoy. It’s an effective combination of those two genres, creating something refreshing and different, imbuing it with a unique perspective that makes for great reading.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Philip Harris include “Serial Killer Z“, “Serial Killer Z: Sanctuary“, “Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet” and “Glitch Mitchell and the Island of Terror“.