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A Viking’s Shadow by H.L. Marsay

Title: A Viking’s Shadow (Chief Inspector Shadow Mystery #2)

Author: H.L. Marsay

Published on: 12th August 2021

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Viking’s Shadow is the second book in H.L. Marsay’s Chief Inspector Shadow Mystery series.

Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow is doing his best to ignore the madness of York’s annual Viking festival. ‘King Ragnar’ and his subjects start to row their oats down the river and Shadow manages to steer away his boat/home Florence just in time. When the noise quiets down and he’s steering his boat back to its original place, he sees a flash of blue lights near the bridge. When he moors down the boat, the duty constable tells him of a dead body.

‘King Ragnar’ or better known as Alfred Campbell was found stabbed to death with his own sword in his tent. He was blindfolded and nothing in his tent seems to be disturbed – indicating, the man went down without a fight and might possible have never expected an attack. Jimmy wonders if it could be suicide which is later ruled out as the angle at which the fatal wound was inflicted doesn’t seem to suggest it.

King Ragnar was seen kissing a young fortune teller – John, Jimmy and their fellow colleague Sophia witnessed this at the beginning of the festival. But now, the woman seems to have gone missing. Did she murder her lover? The next day, a second body is found in the vicinity. Both the victims were no model citizens. So, does this mean they were a part of revenge killings? It is up to Shadow to find out the truth…

What a fantastic addition to the series! A masterpiece! Completely gripping and mind-blowing mystery that kept me hooked on to the story till the end. A dash of history (and some more) and everything ‘norse’ certainly added an extra dose of suspense to the story.

I have read the first book – A Long Shadow – of this series and I was looking forward to reading A Viking’s Shadow. A Long Shadow was Helen Marsay’s debut novel and debut book in this fantastic mystery series. Chief Inspector John Shadow isn’t your average detective. He’s a man of contradictions. He prefers to work alone and detests company; yet, he’s forced to partner with a young and enthusiastic sergeant named Jimmy Chang. While Jimmy is modern, Shadow prefers to do everything the ‘old-fashioned’ way. Shadow lives on a boat named Florence and his fridge is almost always empty. But he loves Italian food and is under the habit of visiting at least one Italian restaurant every week.

In A Long Shadow, Jimmy introduced Shadow to his family. Jimmy’s grandfather got along well with Shadow and Shadow made it a point to visit Jimmy’s mother’s Chinese restaurant at least once a week. A Viking’s Shadow begins with Shadow trying to avoid the crowd – he’s forgotten that it’s Viking festival and there are people in ‘Viking’ costume everywhere. He listens to King Ragnar declaring the festival open and see people rushing to the riverside for the boat ride. He rushes just in time to steer Florence away from the rowdy crowd. When he returns, he finds blue lights flashing by and a young constable tells him about finding a dead body. The victim is none other than ‘King Ragnar’ or better known as Alfred Campbell.

As Shadow and Jimmy start to investigate, they learn the dead man was a nasty bugger and not liked by all. He was (in)directly responsible for ruining his son Dan’s marriage. He also cheated his best friend Edward. Shadow and Jimmy soon learn of the family drama surrounding the dead man – and it gets nastier as they dig deeper.

I am a fan of Helen Marsay’s storytelling. John Shadow reminds me a lot of George Bellairs’ Chief Inspector Littlejohn – although the two men (Shadow and Littlejohn) are opposites in many ways. Shadow is meticulous, prefers his own company and loves good food. He reminds you a little of your favorite uncle. (I guess this is where the similarity between Shadow and Littlejohn comes into picture.) Shadow sees Jimmy as an overly enthusiastic young officer trying to make his mark in the police force – although he snubs Jimmy at times, he has a good opinion about the boy and ends up teaching him a thing or two about being a good detective.

This story revolves around Vikings and Norse mythology – nothing to do with an ancient curse or something – but the main theme is Vikings. The victim was ‘King Ragnar’ and had discovered some ancient Norse relics in his farm decades ago (There’s our Viking connection.) But as a person, he was downright nasty. One of his sons had a learning disability and the man found every opportunity to humiliate the young boy. His current wife supported him in his nasty adventures – she was no saint either. She married him for money and there’s a nasty story behind how she came to ‘fall in love’ with Alfred.

Apart from the murder mystery, we have a string of burglaries terrorizing shopkeepers in York. Shadow thinks Jimmy shouldn’t waste his time solving ‘mysteries when there aren’t any’. But when Maggie’s (Shadow’s childhood friend) shop is broken into, Shadow’s curiosity is piqued.

I was hooked on to the story and could not put it down until the end. A dash of romance (involving one of the recurring characters) was an icing on top. Excellent character portrayal and plot-to-story development. The ending was shocking and unexpected. I couldn’t identify the perp until the end. Shadow is totally lost – with so many suspects, he has no idea who killed Alfred until… *drum roll* he finds the missing piece of the puzzle – more of a light-bulb moment here.

If you love detective ficiton, you might want to give Helen Marsay’s Chief Inspector Shadow mysteries a read. I am pretty sure you will love it – if you are a mystery classics fan, do not miss reading this series!

A Viking’s Shadow by H.L. Marsay is an engrossing, gripping and unputdownable mystery. Highly recommended!


I received an ARC from Helen Marsay and Tule Publishing in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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