Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Shadow Maker
Nick Baron Series #2
James R. Hannibal

Berkley Press
6/3/2014 / ISBN 9780425266892
Mystery/ Thriller/ Military

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Shadow Maker by James R. Hannibal brings back the fascinating characters of Nick Baron and his covert unit, the Triple Seven Chase team. Besides the fast action scenes this novel delves into the motives behind the Jihadist terrorists. Hannibal, through a figurative and literal chess match, brilliantly intertwines within the plot a cat and mouse game between the protagonists and antagonists.

Within the first chapters of the book the reader is exposed to the intense action as Nick, his wife, toddler son, and father escape serious injury when a suicide bomber blows himself up near the Health and Human Services building in Washington, D.C. While tending to the injured, Nick receives an eerie invitation from a chess app on his phone, where a mysterious figure, going by the name The Emissary, challenges him to a chess game. This unknown opponent has resurrected an ancient order of assassins: the legendary Hashashin, where the heart of the Islamic insurgency was born during the eighth century. The Triple Seven Chase team soon finds out that any wrong move leads to deadly consequences. Nick must become the chess master to prevent the Jihadist terrorist from achieving checkmate, the apocalypse of Jerusalem.

The author explained, “The Emissary is based on the leader of the terrorist group in Iraq, ISIS. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is the Sunni version of my character. I came up with the big chess allegory after I saw the current rise in the number of extreme Jihadists. Originally 5000 Al Qaeda types took up the cause so the chance of having a ‘chess master’ was low. But now there are approximately 100,000 active terrorist fighters. That means there is a massive pool from which to draw a ‘big brain, a Bobby Fischer of terrorism.’ Similar to the chess brains, I gave my antagonist the ability to have the ‘dynamic evaluation look ahead.’ He can predict what would happen, like predicting the next move on a chessboard. This enables him to influence actions and consequences.”

Hannibal is among the new generation of thriller writers who have protagonists as heroes but without super natural abilities. Shadow Maker has many scenes where Nick is put into a situation and escapes, not by shooting fifty men or jumping over a subway train, but by doing something most anyone could do. In one scene he causes a distraction by turning over a magazine stand. As with those serving in the military, Baron is a true vulnerable hero readers cheer for because he is an everyday person whose love of family and country is the connecting chord for his actions.

Another great feature of this novel is Hannibal’s subtle commentary about political correctness. Through the character’s voices he points out the Jihadist’s brazen tactics and why they should always be seen as evil. A book quote exemplifies this, “The infidels did not have the stomach to kill the children of their enemies. That was one of their most exploitable weaknesses… the nature of the special defense of this house, because Masih (the child) was the defense. His own son was his blessed shield.” Hannibal cleverly shows the current terrorist have the same philosophy of the ancient order of assassins from the eighth century. Then, as today, they are not above using Mosques and civilians for strategic value.

After finishing the book the reader is encouraged to download a free Stealth Ops App. This adds a third dimension to the storyline. Fans can read mission files of the characters and weapons, as well as zoom in with satellite imagery to find out the backstory of lesser characters and the places traveled. There is also the challenge of cracking a code from the first book in the series, Shadow Catcher. As of yet no one has accomplished the decode.

Shadow Maker has an intriguing story. Besides plenty of nail biting moments the plot incorporates the chase with a chess game. Through his military experience and counter-terrorism background, Hannibal is able to create realistic characters within a realistic setting. This book is a must read for those who enjoy political thrillers.

James Hannibal gave a heads up, he’ll be discussing his books and this app at the Military Book Fair on November 8th on the USS Midway in San Diego, California. I’m excited about attending since this is such a fantastic idea. I hope this becomes a long-standing tradition to support our veterans.


Reviewed 2014