In the Shadow of the Mountains is part of a series of novels called 'The Books of Lost Knowledge'. Set in the small Colorado town, Burns City, it begins with the mysterious arrival of a newcomer who moves into town during a snow storm. No one sees him for days and this sets the tongues wagging as well as piquing the interest of readers. I was certainly intrigued by him from the very start.
The new arrival is quickly introduced to us as the 'old' and gentlemanly Daniel Leland, who has come to Burns City trying to escape a mysterious past. The story is primarily told through the point of view of three teens who live in the town. Liz, Chris and Aaron. Liz and Chris have been friends for years and we learn that Chris is interested in more than friendship, but Liz is anxious about change and the uncertainty that the following year will bring once she moves away to college. Aaron is a child genius. He is younger than Liz and Chris, but his astute observations shed light on the puzzling events that take place when two more strangers arrive in town.
Then the deaths take place. And with each new death, Aaron observes the two strangers. His logical mind quickly works things out so that when one of the men moves without making tracks in the snow, Aaron and the reader wonder what the hell is going on.
The mystery unfolds with fantastic pacing that kept me turning the pages eager to learn more. The story is so interesting, but the character development is equally so. Liz, Chris and Aaron all have their own flaws and weaknesses but are extremely likable and I wanted them to be okay. Daniel Leland is a mystery throughout the story. I did guess his secret, but still, when it was revealed, it was great reading. There were some very cool secondary characters too. Mina Hobbs is fantastic as 'wing man'.
For me, a real strength of Graham's writing is her style. She creates such wonderfully poetic imagery, it is truly a pleasure to read. Her control of language conjures a dark atmosphere that is great for reading on a cool rainy day (like I did).
The only nitpick I have is trivial and there is a minor spoiler here so don't read on if you want to be surprised. Essentially, this is a vampire story, and overall I think the 'vampiric' quality of the story is of a very high standard. All 'common' knowledge of vampires is taken into consideration and the characters even refer to 'Dracula' as the 'bible' on the lore. But there is no mention or explanation of sunlight. This is a little gripe, but it seemed incongruous as so many other beliefs were addressed, just not that one. I kept expecting it to come up but it didn't. But, that's the only thing I can pick on.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to lovers of the paranormal genre, but also to anyone who enjoys a good story. I know I will pick this up again to read one day, probably in the middle of winter, with a nice fire going – that's how much I enjoyed it.