With multiple stories unfolding, Shadow is a novel that is going to keep you on your toes.
It seems that Jakobs, an officer in the anti-terrorist police unit, has waited a lifetime to apprehend Verbeke, a one time colleague turned rogue. So when he was captured the Belgium police officer took it upon himself to make sure that he was properly escorted back to his home country, even encouraging the doctor to sign him off as being fit for active duty. Was that a mistake? It seems even Jakobs believes that to be the case now that Verbeke once again escapes from his clutches.
Susan Lam, a genius bio-chemist in Singapore, is about to start some extremely important scientific trials and if the results go as she hopes this will lead to a major breakthrough in her project. What the project relates to is undisclosed at the moment but could it benefit certain people? The people, for example, that have broken into her house during her morning breakfast with her husband and step-son.
Perhaps, instead of calling her Susan however, she should be known instead by her former name, Ji-Yoo. What she did before becoming Susan we have yet to find out, but one thing is for sure, her husband is none the wiser, so it can’t be good.
“Susan Lam was the fabrication she had fooled herself into thinking was real, scratch the surface and beneath was Ji-Yoo Park, the defector who had fled her home carrying a lifetime of guilt and a deadly secret.” (Page 108)
A secret that had now come back to haunt both her and her family. Will it get them killed?
How are these two story-lines linked? Do Ji-Yoo and Verbeke have a connection?
Noah Verbeke was once a member of Belgium’s most elite soldier corps alongside Jakobs but that was a long time ago. Now, instead, he is on the wrong side of the law, leaving a trail of death and terror across Europe where he promotes a poisonous ideology about white supremacy. It, therefore, comes as a bit of a shock when he realises he needs to work with those that do not quite fit with his ideals.
We are then introduced to Fatima and Remi, refugees from Tripoli, Libya, that have paid to be smuggled across to Italy.
“The boat’s passengers were packed into every square metre of available space, bodies lined up next to one another, keeping warm against the ocean chill beneath a cold and starry night.” (page 29)
It seems their journey across the ocean is destined to be a difficult one when they are picked up by a much larger boat. The occupants of this boat being far less accommodating of their situation. All they think about is who they could sell to the Albanian mafia for their own use and who might end being their bit of fun whilst they travel to their next destination.
This is a novel that, within the opening two chapters, hints that some serious topics will be explored throughout the narrative – many different and difficult topics – white supremacy, rape, human trafficking, smuggling, home invasions, and deceit.
Finally, we are also introduced to ex-MI6 Marc Dane and his colleagues at the Rubicon Group with CEO Ekko Solomon, who has ‘pledged to use his wealth and the reach it gave him to better the state of the world.’ This includes tracking down extremist groups like the Bastion League, who control a stretch from. North Africa to Russia.
Currently, the Bastion League are those involved in human trafficking from North Africa across to Europe, but along with his colleague Lucy, Marc has managed to intercept their current ship, complete with its cargo, and has transported them to safety in Calabria. However, it is hard to believe that this is the only thing this extreme group is involved with, but whatever else they might be up to? Marc and Lucy are determined to find out.
Before they have time to reflect, Marc and Lucy are sent out on another mission. This time, to Singapore where they are to seek out and return Ji-Yoo, but their jobs are made more difficult by the expertise shown by the group who have taken her. Wiping video footage, clearing up after themselves and completely destroying the computer system at MaxaBio where she works so that it remains unclear what was taken and what the kidnappers need her for.
Will Marc and Lucy find Ji-Yoo in time, before she is forced to share her knowledge with those that will use it for destructive purposes? It turns out the Ji-Yoo past is very black indeed. When in Korea she was working on a project called ‘Geulimja’, also known as Shadow, a weaponised virus. Is this the reason she has been kidnapped now? Is someone trying to gain her insights and if so, what implications does that have on the wider population of people?
“‘You heard of Marburg…?… You get infected with it and your guts slowly turn into slurry, you puke out your insides… That was what they were basing Shadow on… trying to make it worse.'” (pages 118-119).
Is a catastrophic bioweapon about to be unleashed upon hundreds of thousands of innocent victims?
The narrative is fast-paced although it does require your attention as it will flit between storylines, sometimes even within a chapter. James Swallow has, however, done a fantastic job in linking everything together seamlessly. His protagonist, Marc, is someone you are rooting for, even when he is reckless often urging on the edge of stupidity. I almost imagine that he represents the true nature of someone who works for the secret service. Not everything can go right all of the time, but so frequently in novels we ready about main characters who succeed in everything they do which is completely unrealistic. Marc Dane however, can definitely not be classed as successful; in fact, by the middle of this story, I was beginning to think he has to be one of the most unlucky people ever. He is a man who truly has nine lives.
Shadow is set across multiple countries meaning we need to follow narratives in North Korea, Singapore, Iceland, and Libya as well as having several mentions to countries in mainland Europe. However, in order not to spoil the book for each of you reading this review, I will not be divulging why it is spread worldwide; for me, it is one of the main pulls of this story.
My Thoughts on Shadow
This is a modern day novel that touches on terrifying real-world issues. Everything read in this novel, while fictional, could become very real, making it a captivating read as well as quite a scary one.
James Swallow is an author that writes gripping prose, drawing his audience in, willing them to champion his main character, Marc Dane, to succeed, regardless of how careless some of his decisions appear.
Not since I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes have I read a novel which felt so close to current events panning out across the world.
If you want an action-packed thriller then look no further. It is a novel that makes you think, throwing into question the insanity of the ruthless terrorists that are currently forcing us to worry each and every time we step outside our front doors.
Shadow is a hard-hitting narrative that will leave you reeling with a book hangover for days. My advice, pick a copy up for yourself today.