The Shadow Side by Linda Castillo
(Berkley, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19102-8
****
Dr. Elizabeth ďEliĒ Barnes is a dedicated scientist who has spent the last 10 years working on the latest wonder drug. Valazine was designed to help people with previously untreatable forms of depression. It is a drug that has made Eliís career Ė she is to be the recipient of the Distinguished Woman of Science Award. It should be the highlight of her life; only Detective Adam Boedecker shows up to ruin everything.

Adam is the very definition of a burnt-out cop. On leave from the Chicago PD after taking a bullet in the head, he endured months of excruciating physical therapy. As if that werenít enough Ė his wife leaves him for his best friend, who just happens to be his former partner. Then the call comes that his older brother, Michael, was the victim of a murder/suicide. Seems Mike killed his pregnant wife then turned the gun on himself.

The fact that Michael would do something so heinous is inconceivable to Adam. Therefore, even though he is on leave, he does a little snooping and finds out that his straight-arrow brother was taking Valazine for depression. Adam then discovers other instances where previously nonviolent people, who had been taking Valazine, were later perpetrators of violent crimes. So, he hops in his truck, and drives to Ann Arbor, the home of Roth Pharmaceuticals and Eli Barnes.

Eli is not about to listen to some cop who is spouting threats. She has devoted her life to Valazine, oversaw the clinical trials herself, itís just not possible that itís a killer. Besides, what is to say itís the drugs' fault? Isnít it possible that the mental illness these people suffered from was to blame and not the treatment? However, when she learns of more evidence, and it appears that someone is out to silence her, Eli begins to suspect that what Adam Boedecker is telling her just may be the truth.

Adam and Eli seem to be polar opposites on the surface, but they are cut from the same cloth. Adam may be a blue-collar cop Ė but heís also a man suffering from the betrayal of two people he trusted and the ramifications of the shooting. The head injury altered his personality to a certain degree, and left him the victim of debilitating migraine headaches. Heís been living in a hole for the last three years Ė not venturing out to his job, let alone on a date.

Eli devoted her life to science in order to help people. As a teenager, she was a witness to the horrors of depression, and those images still haunt her to this day. She herself is a little lost, unwilling to get close to anyone beyond friendships. While sheís no shrinking violet virgin, Adam does attract her on a baser sexual level that she hasnít experienced with the other men in her life Ė and it scares the hell out of her.

The suspense angle isnít much of a puzzler. By the very complicated nature of medical research and drug trials, itís evident that something is afoot at Roth. While the author does throw in a nice little red herring, the conclusion doesnít really come as too much of a surprise. The romance takes a little more time to build, but I found it very credible. Adam has the personality of a wounded animal, and itís emotionally satisfying to watch him come to terms with his growing feelings for Eli. These scenes were easily the highlight of the book Ė featuring some deep emotion and well-written dialogue exchanges between the two. It was gratifying to read their happily ever after.

The Shadow Side is an enjoyable page-turner. The suspense didnít always have me on the edge of my seat Ė but coupled with the interesting characters and emotional romance, I found it nearly impossible to put this book down. With her second single title release, Castillo has penned a very solid effort Ė making hers a name to look for while browsing those bookstore shelves.

--Wendy Crutcher


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