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by Brent Ghelfi
Henry Holt & Co, July 2008
320 pages
ISBN: 0805082557

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A group of terrorists takes several people hostage and threaten to blow up an office building belonging to one of the many United States oil companies. Ex-army colonel and all around tough guy Alexei Volkovoy arrives out of the sky to save the day. While he is able to save several of the hostages and eliminate two of the terrorists, one of them escapes. In fact, Volk quickly determines that the hostage supposedly released by the terrorists with their demands is in fact a terrorist sent to observe the task force. Even more surprising is that this emotionally unstable woman is the daughter of an important diplomat.

Before Volk has the opportunity to get his wounds treated, he receives his next assignment. The General, a paranoid highly placed Russian official, wants Volk to help find a missing Faberge Egg. The agent who was heading up the search previously disappeared and the General wants Volk to find the egg and the agent. While Volk is able to locate the missing and very dead agent, the infamous Faberge Egg remains elusive.

As Volk brutally investigates everyone connected to the dead agent, he finds himself back in touch with his girlfriend and ‘soul mate‛ Valya Novaskaya. Valya is infiltrating the Chechen terrorists and she has connections to people who will help this investigation. Surprisingly the American terrorist from the bombing is also involved with the missing Faberge Egg. In fact, the search for the missing Faberge Egg will allow Volk to confront Abreg, his archenemy and the man responsible for his earlier captivity and permanent ailments.

VOLK‛S SHADOW is a very dark book. Volk is a tormented soul, violent in his actions and deeds. While he was brutal in VOLK‛S GAME – the first of the series – his violence level in this book is almost inhuman. Ironically, he is aware of his callousness and looks to Valya to keep him human. He believes that she has the ability to make him a more caring person; however, he is the one that rejected her affections in the previous novel. While he is aware of his stupidity in doing so, he is unable to correct it. In a way, it almost feels as though Volk is looking for any way to allow his viciousness to show.

While the escalation of brutality is upsetting to read, it also reflects the sinister nature of the Russia described in this book. In this world, the Mob rules the government; oil and money are the country‛s focus; and the police do not have to treat the people with any semblance of civility. Volk is able to behave in such a merciless manner because the government allows him to do as he wills without incurring consequences. It is not until this pitilessness is looked at in-depth, does a deeper meaning appear. It can be seen as being rooted in hopelessness at one‛s fate and the powerlessness to advance or change one‛s life.

For fans of dark, atmospheric mysteries or nonstop action thrillers, VOLK‛S SHADOW should satisfy. I would also recommend this book to readers who can see beyond the sadism to the messages hidden in the aggression.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, August 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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