Shadow CatherRon Fortier returns with another Pulp Fiction Review. This time out Ron takes a look at Shadow Catcher by James R. Hannibal from The Berkley Publishing Group.

By James R. Hannibal
The Berkley Publishing Group
360 pages

A while back I received an e-mail inquiry from a marketing manager at Berkley Publishing asking if I would like a review copy of “Shadow Maker,” the sequel to last year’s “Shadow Catcher.” Obviously the latter being the beginning of a new military thriller series. Of course it is virtually impossible for these managers to keep track of every title they send out and to which reviewers. Thus it often happens that I’ll get offered the second or third or fourth ….books in a series without ever having had the chance to read the first. Yes, that can be most frustrating and generally if that happens, I’ll politely opt out of accepting the sequels.

Whereas I do love modern day military techno thrillers and have been a huge fan of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Matthew Reilly amongst others. This Hannibal sounded like a brother-in-arms what with his Air Force career as a fighter jock etc. and I was really intrigued by the ad Berkley did up. So, on a whim, I let this marketing fellow know I would be happy to receive a copy of this second book but at the same time asked if they might also send along the first in the series as well. Hey, you don’t try, you never win.

A week later I received copies of both “Shadow Catcher” and “Shadow Maker.” Such a magnanimous gesture will not go unrewarded. I’ve decided to read both back-to-back and review them accordingly. Something I’ve never done before. So, sit back and buckle up for some top-notch action adventure.

Air Force Majors Nick Baron and Drake Merigold are the primary agents of a top secret military unit known as Triple Seven Chase and work directly under the command of the President and his Chiefs of Staff. The unit commander is a tough-as-nail Army Colonel named Walker. From a hidden underground headquarters under Andrews Air Force Base, Baron and his colleagues, supported by skilled engineers and computer experts, deploy at a moment’s notice to combat America’s foes and thwart their various plots to destroy our way of life. If this all sounds like something out of an old pulp series, that’s because it is. The set up is pure old fashion, patriotic pulp and it works brilliantly. Hannibal is a fearless writer willing to amp the action at the drop of a hat and the more he puts his heroes through the paces, the fast you turn the pages.

In “Shadow Catcher,” Baron and his team are given the mission of extracting a downed American pilot who has been kept in a Chinese prison camp for the past twenty-five years. Publicly listed as dead on the C.I.A. scrolls, Tom Novak is an emaciated lost soul desperately trying to come home. After escaping his captors, he manages to locate a hidden C.I.A. cache equipped with supplies, canned foods and a still functioning radio which he uses to transmit his coded pleas for rescue.

The men of Triple Seven Chase are initially suspicious of the S.O.S. and set about researching Major Novak’s career and his last spy mission to verify the identity of the radio appeal. Bit by bit they unearth the story of Novak’s last flight and the validity of his message becomes clearer with each passing hour. Satellite images detail unusual troop activity in the vicinity of the hidden prison compound.

Even with the evidence supporting Novak’s call, Baron’s instincts are at odds with the facts. Long suspecting a mole in their intelligence circle, he is leery that the entire rescue mission may be a clever Chinese ruse to lure them into delivering their newest stealth aircraft, Shadow Catcher, into the hands of a Chinese Master Spy. What Baron doesn’t know is that this Espionage Mastermind is in fact planning something far more insidious and world shattering. They are being manipulated with Major Novak as the bait.

James R.Hannibal, with this book, easily gets added to my favorite-writers list. His characters are succinctly put forth in an economy of words that is most welcome and never slows down the pacing; which is break-neck. Like the fighter jets he’s flown, Hannibal never lets up. He propels his story into a stratosphere of white-knuckle action and suspense that had this reader hooked from page one to the cataclysmic finale. In a time when many so called thrillers are padded, overblown phonies, “Shadow Catcher” is the real McCoy!


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