Finished The Shadows by Alex North.
Summary (from Goodreads):
“You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.
It wasn’t just the murder.
It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…”
This is such an intense book! I’ve been reading a ton of thrillers lately but this is actual horror.
If you remember the Slenderman case a few years back where two girls tried to kill their friend to please the mythical creature from the internet, that’s very similar to this. Except here, we have Mister Red Hands, who rules the dreamworld. If you can teach yourself how to have lucid dreams, you can then have the same dream as your friends. Once you master those two steps, you’re almost done. Then you just have to murder a third person (with those friends) and then you take sleeping pills, disappear and wake up in the dream world to hang out with Mister Red Hands forever.
Obviously this has failed many times, but one kid (Charlie) has managed to do it. He actually DID disappear and was never seen again.
For most of the book, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. It all seems like a bit of a dream; details are hazy and things don’t fully make sense. Even so, it’s completely creepy and very, very fun to read.
I definitely need to read The Whisper Man, too. That also looks fantastic.