Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Review of "The Shepherd" [20]

The Shepherd by Ethan Cross
The Fiction Studio, ISBN 978-1936558063
March 16, 2011, 400 pages

"Marcus Williams and Francis Ackerman Jr. both have a talent for hurting people. Marcus, a former New York City homicide detective, uses his abilities to protect others, while Ackerman uses his gifts to inflict pain and suffering. When both men become unwilling pawns in a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of our government, Marcus finds himself in a deadly game of cat and mouse trapped between a twisted psychopath and a vigilante with seemingly unlimited resources. Aided by a rogue FBI agent and the vigilante's beautiful daughter -a woman with whom he's quickly falling in love- Marcus must expose the deadly political conspiracy and confront his past while hunting down one of the most cunning and ruthless killers in the world."

What did I learn from this book? Well, things are not always what they seem at first.

I will tell you that for a large portion of this book I was planning to give it a rather lukewarm if not negative review.
Not that it is badly written.
Because it is not, not at all. In fact it is very well written.
It is a complicated story, with a good number of characters and the author is very successful at keeping it all straight in the reader's mind. And it is not because the characters are not good, because again, this is not an issue. The characters are clearly painted and very interesting. The first major character, serial killer Ackerman is as creepy and scary as any serial killer I have ever read. Ever.You know how I like a 'good' serial killer but I will tell you, this one..well, this one scared me. It is not so much any physical description of the crimes, although that may be an issue for the more weak stomached reader, but rather the relentless psychological attacks on his victims. Disturbing stuff, but interesting stuff too, because it will make many readers question what they might do in the same situation.

The other major character, Marcus, is as interesting in his own way. He is an ex-cop, a man very able to handle himself in just about every situation, but a man dealing with a troubling, secret past. And again, when his past is revealed, the reader is forced to reconsider both their opinion of Marcus and that they would have done in his place. Again and again the question is raised, does the end ever justify the means?

Then what was the problem, why did I not like this book at first?
Well, there are two distinct stories, one about a serial killer, Ackerman and one about Marcus and how he comes upon this government conspiracy. And to tell you the truth I am not a big fan of conspiracy. And while the two stories interconnect to a degree, starting when Marcus finds the body of one of the killers victims, it just seemed like one story too many. Serial killer...fine. Conspiracy plot...fine. Together...why?
Then, there seemed to be a number of things that were a bit off, holes in the story, as it were. You may have noticed that I read a lot of mysteries and maybe that is why these little things jump out at me but it started to seem a bit careless of the author to have caught these mistakes.

Well, things are not always what they seem.

I will say no more, but just keep in mind if you read this book, that sometimes you have to look below the surface and when these other layers are revealed toward the later part of the book...well, I was totally surprised and totally turned around in my view of the book from lukewarm to positive. My only fear is for some readers that reward may be too late in coming, but I hope that is not the case.
This is Cross's first published book and what seems to be the first  in a series he is writing. The final sign of my ultimate opinion of this book is that when the next in the series is published, I will certainly be reading it. 

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book to review.


  1. I'm not crazy about the cover, but I'm glad to see the book is good.

  2. I will agree that I hate the cover...cheesy is the word that comes to mind...and the photo of the author used in the book and on his website is weird. Not sure what 'look' he was going for, but I think he missed it.
    but I still ended up liking the book.


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