‘Shadow Chasers’ by Paul Adam

First published 2000 by Little Brown & Co

I am a big fan of Paul Adam. He is (a bit like Robert Harris) an author of infinite variety. As I also aim to tread new ground with every book I write, I respect this and enjoy the frisson of wondering where we’re off to now, with each of his fresh writing endeavours. He has written thrillers set around antique violins, the Dalai Lama, WWII in Italy, and the Vatican to give just a few examples. Presumably his mind says ‘what if?’, there is research, a plot develops and the outcome is a book in which the pages simply turn themselves.

I see Adam is now with Endeavour Publishing. This may, indeed, be his own imprint. He is ridiculously under-regarded and absurdly hard to find on Amazon (harder, even, than I am myself). His online information is skimpy. A man, then, who we can judge only on his output. There are 13 books now (plus three in the Max Cassidy series for younger readers). Not one dud among ‘em (Robert Harris cannot claim that).

But to current cases: Shadow Chasers feels very up to date, considering it is 22 years old. It concerns smuggling in the EU. The complexities of this reminded me strongly of our current concerns with what customs duties may or may not be payable on goods going in and out of Northern Ireland in various directions, now that the UK is no longer in the EU. I feel I have a significantly better grip on that issue having read this book. It is by far the most interesting explication of it that I have come across, and I thank Adam for that, along with the other pleasures of the novel.

Adam’s thesis is that criminals will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying duty on cigarettes, or to make extra virgin olive oil go further by adulterating it with cheaper hazelnut oil. The great behemoth that is the EU knows smuggling is rife – a multi-million Euro industry – and has a tiny team of investigators poring over ships’ logs and cargo manifests trying to follow the smugglers’ tracks so as to predict where they may catch them red-handed. Oooh, you may say, this all sounds a bit sedentary, a bit forensic accounting-y. But I found the paper chase thrilling. After the paper chase come the actual chases, with guns and speeding cars and everything. But that isn’t the USP of Shadow Chasers: an insider’s look at how the EU polices its ginormous smuggling problem is.

The stakes are high, so organised crime is heavily involved: some real mafia families, mainly out of Naples and Russia, are name-checked, some fictional ones are created; some British wheelers and dealers are at the heart of the matter; and I will tell you now the Ukrainians do not come out of this well (perhaps that is where the book has aged a bit). Many of those who should be helping detect and stop the smuggling are complicit. And the criminals are constantly looking to trap the honest but unwary operative. People are afraid to speak out. People die. But the investigators are clever.

They need to be, because there is real danger in the work they do. If they get too close to success they could end up at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.

I found this to be a gripping thriller with an unusual McGuffin.

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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