Can evil flourish without goodness? Is it possible to be a murderer and yet not be evil? Often what lurks inside the mind makes the difference. In The Shepherd by Ethan Cross, we meet evil head on in his serial killer, Francis Ackerman. Cold and cunning, ruthless and bold, he shows no fear as he stalks his victims. Even the police are not immune to his cunning, when one of their finest is cut down along with his family. To Ackerman it is a game as he twists the tables and reduces his victims to terror, offering them the worst possible avenue in an opportunity to save themselves. It is all a part of his game, a horrible psychological game with unlivable circumstances regardless of how the game plays out.
Ackerman is the monster from your nightmares, and possibly worse. Ethan Cross creates such a believable character that you can feel the frost when he is in the room. The hairs rise on your neck and you can feel that faint sense of doom along with the victim. With short work he is able create a feel for the victim themselves, he draws them from parallels of our own life, whether it be our mother or father, our children or sister, it is all personal, and horror provoking.
Being a shepherd is tantamount to being a keeper. In days gone by the shepherd watched over the sheep and kept them safe, and nurtured them. With that in mind Cross has created a foil of goodness, to counteract the evil. Marcus Williams is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and drawn into the path of the killer. However, Williams is more than what meets the eye — he has found darkness within himself that he continues to try to purge. Having worked in law enforcement, he is conversant with the ins and outs of procedure, and when he meets the sheriff’s daughter Maggie, he is smitten. When he discovers a murder close to where he lives, he realizes that the serial killer lurks in the very heart of his home.
As Marcus digs deeper into the investigation, he finds that things do not add up. There is more going on with the police and the corruption seems to come from someone high up in the ranks. Can he keep the townspeople safe from a sadistic killer? Who can he turn to for help?
In Williams, Ethan Cross has developed a hero full of flaws and with a hint of darkness in his own soul. He has faced evil before and flourished. He is hardheaded, smart, quick on his feet, and seems to be able to think his way out of the worst situations. He maintains his calm in the toughest environment and has the ability to calm the reader as well as the victim. He is charismatic and people are drawn to him. However, he is not sure whom he can trust.
This powerful thriller keeps the pace at a rapid fire. Once I started reading, it was difficult to put the book down. Right when you think you have an understanding of the situation it takes a difficult turn, throwing you off stride. It is a must-have for the action and thriller fan, and a great addition to any library. The Shepherd is full of surprises to the very end — you won’t be disappointed and you won’t see it coming.