The genre of thriller in literature is very broad. The majority of thrillers in modern times have plenty of action, plenty of conflict, etc. The problem is not that these books aren’t well-written, but they lack a message. My favorite thriller/espionage writer, the indomitable John Le Carré, wrote with a message in each of his books, and still at the age of 83 hopes his life’s work has not been for nothing.
I mention Le Carré because I believe that the authors of Shadow Ritual, Éric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne, are the closest anyone has come to reaching Le Carré’s caliber in both writing thrillers to entertain and to convey a message.
Shadow Ritual, published for the first time in English, follows the investigation by Inspector Antoine Marcas into 2 murders, one in Rome and one in Jerusalem. Marcas soon finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy that stretches the entire continent of Europe. Paired with the resolute Jade Zewinski, who has a personal connection to one of the victims, they must decipher a mystery centuries in the making before it is too late.
Shadow Ritual is unique because of its balance. Inspector Marcas is a Freemason, but is fairly portrayed not in the corrupt manner the world thinks Freemasons are but as simply a part of his life. Freemasonry plays a large part in the conspiracy Marcas and Zewinski must unravel, but the authors, though divided in their views of Freemasons, find a moderate position that Marcas can hold firm to.
The historical influence on the events in the novel work well together and despite seeming disconnected at first the authors do an impeccable job of showing the connections they share with each other and the present. The research the authors conducted really shines through and gives the novel another dimension.
The 2 lead characters in Shadow Ritual, Antoine Marcas and Jade Zewinski, bring this novel into a high caliber of literary accomplishment. The characters are so realistic, unusual for thrillers, and we see them as the lead point for the novel, not the action. We understand Marcas as a man involved in things bigger than himself but puts justice above all else, which sometimes distracts him from smaller details. I see Zewinski as a truly powerful woman, often being more stubborn than Marcas but always dedicated to getting the job done well. This team work so well, and give each other such a fair amount of give and take that real-world detectives should look at this pair as a great example of an inspector duo.
Finally, Shadow Ritual has a message that truly needs to be heard. The novel shows how corrupt ultranationalism and extremism is, and how we must counteract the rising extremism with true understanding and justice. We must all join together to say “never again.”
Shadow Ritual puts Giacometti and Ravenne into the top tier of writers that effectively pair entertainment and meaning into their work. The times call for more writing like this, and I look forward to reading more of this author team’s work.
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3 print copies for US residents
5 digital copies for US or other residents