Title: The Tall Man
Author: Phoebe Locke
Publisher: Wildfire, Headline Publishing.
Summary: from Goodreads
A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.
1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.
2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.
2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.
Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.
He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…
I was interested in reading this book as soon as I heard about it. I watched a documentary on Slenderman a while ago, a sort of bogeyman created online that young people seem to know all about but who I had literally never heard of. Slenderman became a huge part of an actual real life criminal case and The Tall Man takes it’s inspiration from the phenomenon. I found the whole Slenderman thing seriously creepy so I was already pretty freaked out before I started reading The Tall Man and my nerves became more and more frayed as I read further. I finished this book in 24 hours, I couldn’t stop reading as I had to find out what happened.
The story is told from a few points of view and jumps around a fair bit in the timeline. At first it is slightly confusing but very quickly it becomes much easier to follow the different strands of this tale as the reader begins to differentiate between the character’s voices. We follow Sadie, who has been haunted by the Tall Man since childhood, her daughter Amber who has just been acquitted of a murder that initially the reader knows very little about and Greta, who is part of a documentary crew making a film about Amber. I liked that we had Greta’s story in the mix as I think if it had just been Sadie and Amber telling the story it may have been hard to gain perspective about what had happened. The fact that the media is so obsessed with Amber, the teenage murderess, in this story rings really true. Society in general does have an almost ghoulish obsession with people who have committed horrifying acts – they are treated like celebrities, rather than criminals at times. Following the documentary being made showed how cynical the press is but it is impossible to argue that it is not what the public wants.
Following Greta kept the plot grounded in reality because reading about Sadie’s life felt much less real and explainable. I found Sadie’s sections of the story genuinely scary. I do scare easy, and there were so many really eerie moments that had me literally jumping at shadows. It was quite horror movie like at times and I just did not know what was real and what was a creation of Sadie’s mind. She comes across as vulnerable for most of the book and although I didn’t warm to her character very much I did feel empathy for her at times. The other main plot thread is following Amber both before and after she has committed her crime. The reader doesn’t know for most of the book the exact circumstances of Amber’s crime and this mystery really kept the intrigue and suspense levels high for pretty much the whole novel. Amber is a fascinating character to follow. There is something cold and sinister about her and she also seems to be skilled at manipulation which made me, as a reader, question her motives the whole way through.
As we move through the story we learn more and more about what has actually taken place but things also become more complex and layered at the same time. Locke’s writing draws you in and then pulls the rug from under you. As the story built to it’s crescendo I was holding my breath at the intensity. I found the ending as unsettling and sinister as the rest of the book which is impressive as I feel often thrillers taper off a bit after the plot has come to it’s climax. The Tall Man did not ease off at all and remained a thoroughly haunting read until the very last page.
The Tall Man is probably my favourite thriller of the year so far. I tore through the pages, eager to find out more and whilst the inspiration is taken from Slenderman, this is still a totally original and cleverly written story which will leave the reader completely on edge. I would highly recommend The Tall Man and I will definitely be eagerly anticipating Phoebe Locke’s next book!
The Tall Man is out now.
I received this e-arc from Netgalley in exchange for a completely honest review.