The Shadow (The Shadow #1) (2024)

Who knows what evil lurks in the Hearts of Men?
The Shadow Knows...

Or at least, the real Shadow knows. I'm not sure this guy does though.

The Shadow is probably my favorite fictional character of all time. An agent of vengeance, one who manically laughs from behind a large slouch hat or from behind a hypnosis-fuelled invisibility cloak. He could be hiding in every corner of every room, as inevitable as a criminal’s guilty conscience. He took on gangsters, dismantled the Chicago mob, fought against crazed super villains, and even destroyed a multi-headed criminal organization, all with either his agents or simply his companion Margo Lane.

This guy though? I couldn’t imagine him doing such things.

First of all, I believe that this is the first new stand-alone novel of The Shadow since Destination: Moon by Dennis Lynds from 1967. However, the original Walter Gibson version appeared in two Doc Savage novels, Doc Savage: The Sinister Shadow from 2015 and Doc Savage: Empire of Doom from 2016 respectively.

After that, The Shadow hadn’t appeared in any new non-Comic Books other than the original magazine reprints that sadly ended last year.

Until now.

Enter James Patterson, with Brian Sitts writing under his name. To be honest, I had some hope for this. I was hoping that this would at least be a gripping crime thriller featuring the original superhero.

We didn’t get that. Instead, we got a generic Dystopian novel with some very basic Shadow elements shoved in somewhat awkwardly. This is not a novel written by a fan or someone who is familiar with the property. This seems like someone who listened to a few radio shows decades ago and decided to write a novel with what they vaguely remembered.

Enough rambling. Let’s begin.

The novel starts in 1937. Lamont Cranston is waiting in the 21 Club for Margo Lane, his girlfriend and also his crime-fighting partner. He has a ring in his pocket, and is ready to ask her to marry him. When she arrives, they order Lobster and drinks.

It soon goes wrong, as the drinks are poisoned with a lethal dose. To try and save the both of them, Lamont somehow manages to stumble around carry Margo out of the club despite slowly dying from the poison in their systems. On the way out, it’s revealed that Shiwan Khan (a villain from the original Magazines and the 1994 movie and not the radio interestingly) poisoned the both of them.

Stumbling out of the club, Lamont also manages to drive the both of them to a warehouse despite the fact he could barely stay awake.

The novel then cuts to 2087, 150 years into the future. Maddy Gomes is now our main character. What’s interesting is that we are now in a 1st person perspective for every scene she is in. Every scene she isn’t in is told in 3rd person perspective. The world now is under a police state, with the entire world ran by a single person named Gismonde.

Maddy skips class (after convincing a police guard to let her pass) and is informed that she has an inheritance by a man called ‘Creighton Poole’, who reminds me of Claude Fellows, a classic agent of The Shadow in the original magazines. He directs her to a warehouse.

At the warehouse, Maddy finds a man in a test capsule, cryogenically cooled (not frozen, which is stated as impossible for a human body to survive in). Thawing him out and reviving him, the man says his name is Lamont Cranston.

Here’s where the problems begin, only 11 chapters in. First of all, why has Maddy inherited Lamont? It’s hinted that she has some relation to him, but as far as I can tell, it’s not revealed, even past I read. Was the poison slowed by the cryogenic cooling process? Don’t know.

Next, Lamont leaves and insists on going home, not realizing that his home wouldn’t be intact after a century and a half. Still, he insists so much that he steals (or ‘borrows’ as he states) a car that Maddy drives. An ambush outside the gates of his former home reveals something that reminds the reader that this in fact a story of The Shadow; Lamont turns invisible to escape from armed police.

A bit of a pet peeve kept coming up. They keep writing it as ‘the Shadow’ rather than ‘The Shadow’. The Shadow is his name and title, not a random description.

Anyway, next Lamont and Maddy escaped to her house. It was very clear at this point that The Shadow that was so influential to the Super Hero genre as a whole was fictional in this universe.

At Maddy’s home, Lamont meets her grandmother Jessica, who reminds him of Margo. She even has a photo of her. What does this mean?

Next, Maddy pulls out her vintage collection of The Shadow magazine. Lamont then tells her that they are fictionalized versions of his real cases. He had never even owned a black hat or a red scarf. He then says they had to ‘jazz up the image to push sales.’ Maddy then plays the intro of the old-time radio show, to which Lamont also says is fake.

Okay then, if the magazines and the radio knew that he was Lamont Cranston and he had a girlfriend called Margo Lane and he was also The Shadow, then why didn’t anyone back in the 30s knew that he was The Shadow. Also, the radio show only had 14 episodes from 1937, not enough to form a good enough reputation.

And with that chapter, I gave up. I couldn’t read anymore. Why bring the character back, only to scrap all the coolness and create a bland dystopian thriller in its place. This is not The Shadow.

The fact that Conde Nast (who own have owned The Shadow since the 50s) make a big deal about reviving the character for new stores, then strip back everything that made the character iconic before throwing whatever was left into a novel.

And if I put aside The Shadow and judge it as a stand-alone novel? Even then, the novel just isn’t that good. It’s set in 2087, but doesn’t have anything that would seem cool or futuristic. It’s awkwardly written and Mandy just didn’t seem that good of a character. Lamont doesn’t even talk like he’s from the 1930s. The twist is also extremely obvious.

Will The Shadow make a true comeback, with his blazing .45s and his eerie and creepy laugh?

Only The Shadow Knows...

The Shadow (The Shadow #1) (2024)
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