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The Shimmer


The Shimmer

I have just read Carsten Stroud’s latest novel, and I think it will be my favorite book of 2018. Sure, the year isn’t even half over, so it is way too early to be paring down the list, but I feel confident in my assertion.

THE SHIMMER is a hybrid of time travel, police procedure, romance and sacrifice. It is exciting, suspenseful, violent at a couple of points, frightening and heartwarming. As a rule, I don’t like time travel stories, but Stroud plays fair with the concept. His two-page Author’s Note, “The Rules of Engagement with Time,” is perhaps the best advisory treatise I have ever encountered with respect to how to write such books --- and he follows his own rules with outstanding results.

The novel features a troubled but very competent law enforcement officer named Jack Redding, a sergeant with the Florida Highway Patrol. Redding, while still dealing with a horrific personal tragedy, becomes involved in a police pursuit that ends in a fatal shootout. The driver of the car escapes, seemingly into thin air. Redding can’t help but feel that he knows the woman, however vaguely. The problem is that he can’t because she is apparently the same individual who his grandfather, a Jacksonville police officer, pursued in 1957. Yet, somehow, she in the here and now of 2018.

"I have just read Carsten Stroud’s latest novel, and I think it will be my favorite book of 2018.... THE SHIMMER is...exciting, suspenseful, violent at a couple of points, frightening and heartwarming."

What Redding comes to learn is that the woman is a notorious serial killer who has left victims across time and distance by using something called The Shimmer to travel back across the decades. Redding, in the process of almost apprehending her, manages to catch The Shimmer and ride back to 1957, at which point he encounters his own grandfather, who is a few days away from experiencing a life-changing event of his own. The pair travel from Florida to New Orleans in pursuit of the enigmatic woman, who is the key to the tragedies that will affect both men.

Redding has the opportunity to perhaps change what is about to occur, but with the possibility that doing so will come at a terrible cost. He ultimately makes a decision, the results of which are both bittersweet and satisfying for him. The ending will stay with you long after you have finished the story, which in itself is unforgettable.

Stroud is amazing. He has written several novels, most of which have gotten past me. I plan on rectifying that oversight this summer. It develops, though, that for years I have been one of his biggest fans and advocates. Did I travel The Shimmer? No. I learned that Stroud had written a series of espionage thrillers under the pseudonym “David Stone.” Those four books were published close to a decade ago and featured a CIA operative named Micah Dalton. They remain among my favorites of the spy genre. Stone abruptly disappeared, and Dalton with him, but I can still recall passages from each volume.

While I was entranced by Stroud’s latest novel on its own merits, discovering what had happened to one of my favorite authors as a result was a lagniappe of the highest order. THE SHIMMER, however, is a magnificent literary gift all by itself.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 8, 2018

The Shimmer
by Carsten Stroud