The Shadow of the Soul: A complicated, suspenseful tale

The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough Horrible Mondayfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood (reviewed here).

As The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough opens, Cass Jones has been through six months of interviews, arrests, statements and the backlash from his discovery of rampant corruption among his fellow police officers (as set forth in the first book of the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood), and it isn’t even close to over. It’s hard for him to care about anyone thinks about him, though, because all he has to do is remember the sight of his dead partner’s body at the bottom of the stairs of the Paddington Green station to feel that they all had it coming.

There’s a shortage of personnel now, worse than ever, because of all the officers who have been relieved of duty, so Cass is kept busier than ever. His latest case is a suicide that doesn’t seem quite right. It’s definitely suicide, not murder in any ordinary sense, but the dead college-age girl said something very strange just before she died: “Chaos in the darkness.” Soon this suicide is not the only one on his docket; a number of college kids have died with the same words on their lips or written in their own blood on a nearby wall.

Cass is also still dealing with the deaths of his brother and his family, and the odd news that his brother’s son Luke was switched at birth with another baby, and that Luke is out there somewhere, very possibly in danger from The Bank and Mr. Bright, villains familiar to us from A Matter of Blood. It isn’t long before Cass begins to think there is a connection between The Bank and the suicides, and he sets out to discover what it is despite massive resistance by his superiors and a distinct lack of evidence.

But the cases on which Cass is working are only a small part of the chaos that has gripped London. Terrorism is on the rise; a bus, a car and a shop have just been blown up at Ealing Broadway, and there have been at least three large explosions in the Underground. The injuries, death, smoke, damage and confusion have caused enormous fear among the population. And the CCTV tapes show the very same man present at all the explosions, which is impossible as they all took place at the same time. Alison McDonnell, the Prime Minister, is losing control of the situation, and one of her bodyguards, Abigail Porter, is charged with keeping her safe regardless of the circumstances. But Abigail isn’t a typical woman, and her conduct as the terrorism investigation unfolds is puzzling and then frightening. When her path crosses Cass’s, one begins to perceive of the wheels within wheels behind what is happening in their world.

This perception is accelerated when we get our next view of Mr. Bright and his cohorts. They’re dying of eminently human diseases — pancreatic cancer, for instance — and that isn’t supposed to happen to them. We don’t yet know who these people are, but it is obvious by now that they have their fingers in almost all human events of national or global significance. They are desperately looking for a way home, whatever that might mean, and if humans must die for them to find the way, that’s a price they are willing to pay.

It’s a complicated, suspenseful tale; Pinborough keeps an enormous number of balls in the air without losing any of the detailed characterization or philosophical and religious musing that this tale requires. Given that this is the second book in a trilogy, Pinborough’s job is to muddy the waters further, and place her hero in jeopardy, and she does both excellently. Yet at the same time, she provides a satisfying conclusion to some of the subplots — for instance, explaining the “chaos in the darkness” suicides — so that the novel does not read like mere filler between the beginning and the end of the trilogy. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that this is one of the most skillful middle books to a trilogy I’ve ever read.

I unreservedly recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys horror fiction. It is deftly plotted, written with assurance in clear, compelling prose, and offers a puzzle as complicated as any horror novel or series I’ve ever read. The sense of impending doom permeates the novel and gets into your bones. Don’t miss this one.

Forgotten Gods — (2010-2012) Publisher: The recession that grips the world has left it exhausted. Crime is rising in every major city. Financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world’s wealthiest men. But Detective Inspector Cass Jones has enough on his plate without worrying about the world at large. His marriage is crumbling, he’s haunted by the deeds of his past, and he’s got the high-profile shooting of two schoolboys to solve — not to mention tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then Cass Jones’ personal world is thrown into disarray when his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide — leaving Cass implicated in their deaths. And when he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, it’s time for the suspended DI to go on the hunt himself — only to discover that all three cases are linked… As Jones is forced to examine his own family history, three questions keep reappearing: what disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

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