Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HELL CITY by Allen Shadow


by Allen Shadow

ISBN: 978-0-9859688-0-9
Publisher: Blue City Media

In this mystery, Shadow brings to life the fear of terrorism in a big city.

Jack Oldham, a soon-to-be ex-member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, scans the crowd on New Year’s Eve, weary from constant high alerts and threats that lead to nothing. During the festivities, his concerns change after a bomb scare over a bag that contains the belongings of a college student named Jessica. Jack’s worried she’s missing. Preoccupied by the bag and the missing girl, Jack searches for her throughout the city, sifting block by block through its history while trying to keep its citizens safe. The hunt turns out to be for naught: Jack tracks down Jessica’s mother and then Jessica, who is safe at home. But things don’t add up: Jessica wasn’t anywhere near the neighborhood where the bag was found on New Year’s Eve, and the photo on her ID isn’t hers. Jack realizes this isn’t about a missing person; it’s about the safety of the city he loves. The bag has something to do with a larger plot and the terrorists who, after the death of Osama bin Laden, are more ready than ever to strike another blow against America. Shadow has crafted an entertaining mystery that borrows from the best in mystery and noir, while adding a heavy dose of modern paranoia. Jack Oldham, the compelling detective, is riddled with doubts and scars, and rather than being a standard cardboard cutout, he feels vivid and believable as a protagonist. Shadow deftly evokes the constant high alert in a modern security state, as if there’s always conspiracy around the corner. His language can feel clunky at times, though, and he sometimes drops in eyebrow-raising sex metaphors, although they’re usually just spirited jolts in this thrilling lookout for the bad guys’ next move.

A striking story that will leave readers looking around the corner in fear.