THE SHADOW KNOWS by Diane Johnson
Kirkus Star


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Only the shadow knows -- who is the shadow? -- silhouetting the shape of things to come. Perhaps she knows, Mrs. Hexam or N. -- N. for nameless narrator -- who tells this story with its ugly portents -- a dead cat on the lawn in front of her Sacramento apartment, a terrible, disfigured picture in the mails -- is she a ""living warning?"" Of course she's done nothing to deserve this after all the defections (deaths of a sort, after all) that have taken place -- the vast black former housekeeper who could hardly fit in the VW; her husband Gavvy with his lawyerly mind; her feckless lover who never really made up his. Right now she's living with Ev, as a baby-sister friend, Ev who is black and has the same history of abandonments -- a husband and a lover -- they're both ""two halves of a mirror"" until Ev is found dead after an attack in the laundry. Was it, as the indifferent detective said, just her alcoholically inflamed pancreas? Is it a more formless kind of hatred which plays on black-white fears and when it really comes to hatred, the blacks have that little extra edge? Is there someone ready to obliterate the impervious, or the innocent? Is she the shadow? Miss Johnson's best novel to date is equally charming and threatening -- you won't quite fingerprint it and you certainly can't file it away and forget it. A tasteful, teasing metaphor of horror, perhaps it's only the uncertainty that's everywhere, with something of the elusive stylish menace of Don't Look Now. It should make your day or your evening.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Knopf