I am not a fan of the supernatural. Ghosts exist in the minds of the easily influenced, so when I was sent a copy of Mark Thomas’ Shadow Hunters (ISBN 978-974-16-9671-0, Bamboo Sinfonia) it was not a book I picked up with any excitement.
The back cover proclaimed, “Phanom and Ariceya become involved in supernatural events that leads them on a chase throughout Thailand,” and that meant I almost put it totally to one side. However, after one terrifying day of reading it, I was almost afraid to fall asleep. Forget all preconceived notions. This is a powerful book with imaginative verbal imagery.
Author Mark Thomas states at the front of the book that he met a village elder from his Thai wife’s village who it was claimed to be around 120 years old. Ages in the remote villages are always shrouded in mystery anyway. She was a type of shaman and Mark Thomas interviewed her in 2002. Unfortunately she died in 2003, but her memory lives on in this tale which she told to Mark Thomas, even though the entire work is admittedly a work of fiction, but apparently based on the framework as supplied by the old lady.
The all pervading theme in the first part of the book is that of a serial killer, who literally tears the victims apart. The police are called in, but the investigating police soon find that the same modus operandi has been used all over Thailand, and sometimes at the same time, thereby ruling out a killing spree by one demented individual.
After setting the exceptionally gory scene, the book introduces the two main characters Phanom and Ariceya, who have discovered they have been given a ‘gift’ which includes their being able to see the perpetrator(s) of the crimes and also experience the spirit world.
From there, they have to go on an arduous journey, following the visions being given to Ariceya, whilst protected by the sixth sense given to Phanom. The book also crosses over seamlessly between Buddhism and Islam, showing that the ‘gift’ or sixth sense is not secular.
This is all delving well into the supernatural, but author Mark Thomas by this time has got you so well into the story that you dare not put the book down, in case you miss another horrifying detail. The action is thick and fast, and with the gifted ones able to use ley lines.
Mark Thomas is a talented writer, but like all authors, needs the services of a sub-editor to catch some of the errors which can otherwise slip through and spoil the reading experience. For example, “precis”, when “precise” was intended. Even “too” when “to” was correct usage (page 13 if you would like to check) or “literary” when “literally” was intended (p.16).
However, at B. 395 this book is a bargain in the supernatural genre. If you are looking for something to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, this is it. With the proviso that it needed a damn good sub-editor, storywise, this is an excellent book. And terrifying! Well worth a weekend’s read.