A Christmas Shadow by H.L. Marsay

Title: A Christmas Shadow (Chief Inspector Shadow #6)

Author: H.L. Marsay

Published on: 11 October 2022

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Christmas Shadow is the sixth book in Helen Marsay’s Chief Inspector Shadow series.

Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow is reluctantly attending York Minster’s Advent Ceremony when the new Dean is taken ill after drinking wine. Was her allergic reaction a simple case of human error or could she have been poisoned? Shadow becomes suspicious when he learns someone else has died under similar circumstances. He begins to quietly investigate, but when the body of a young woman is recovered from the river, he knows he must act quickly. And this time, Shadow requires the help of someone from his past.

DCI John Shadow and Sergeant Jimmy Chang work through a maze of cheating husbands, corrupt clergy and criminal gangs to solve the murders before the killer can strike again.

Before I start praising this yet another fantabulous addition to my favorite series, I must say I really love the new plot developments in this series. In the previous book – A Forgotten Shadow – we were given a glimpse of Shadow’s childhood and how he managed to solve his father’s unsolved murder case. In this book, we have a blast from the past. It seems like, with each new mystery (and new book), John Shadow is finally getting to make peace with his past.

A Christmas Shadow begins with John, Maggie, Jimmy, Sophie and the forensic goofs (Ben and Ollie) attending the York Minster’s Advent Ceremony. The Cathedral’s new Dean, Clarissa Fortescue was a rising star in the Church of England and widely topped to become a future bishop. Jimmy and Sophie were to get married in the church a week from now and the Dean had invited them to attend the Advent Ceremony. After the ceremony, the Dean is taken ill after sipping wine. It was an allergic reaction – allergic to nuts.

But Shadow knows the brand of wine that was offered. A brand that Shadow’s late girlfriend Luisa’s family made in their vineyard in Italy. Then, during a casual chat, Shadow learns that a man was found dead in his hotel room – and the same brand of wine was found in the room. Though the man’s death was ruled as accidental, Shadow does not want Luisa’s family to get a bad name due to dodgy wine.

A young woman’s body is found in the river. She was murdered. Shadow must act quickly and find out how these incidents are related – if they are related, that is. As he and Jimmy start to investigate, they come across cheating husbands, corrupt businessmen and dodgy dealings, and criminal gangs.

Speaking of criminal gangs , Jimmy has recently returned from helping the crime unit in Leeds. Shadow is frustrated that Jimmy starts most of his sentences with “In Leeds.” Jimmy speaks of The Snowman, a notorious drug dealer whose profile Jimmy came across when he was IN LEEDS. Dodgy wine? When Jimmy was IN LEEDS, he…

I couldn’t help but mention this as I found it funny. I suppose, it did bring about a dash of quirky to the story.

I cannot talk much about the wine angle and how Shadow must connect to someone from his past to investigate the case. (No spoilers) But I will say this, it was quite nice to see that Shadow is loved and adored by many. Though he prefers to live a life of (almost) recluse, there are people who care for him. And as the story ends, we see a change in Shadow’s behavior too – he’s finally out of the cocoon.

It goes without saying that this is yet another fantastic, brilliant, fabulous and mind-blowing addition to my favorite series. Helen is a master storyteller. I have already mentioned that I love the new plot developments in the series and I don’t mind repeating it again and again. It’s as if Shadow is metamorphosing – from a recluse to … well, I certainly hope to see him jovial in the near future (books). He has changed a lot – thanks to Jimmy and Maggie who are always by his side.

Speaking of Jimmy, he’s getting married to Sophie – by the end of this book. Do I hear wedding bells for Shadow next? Maggie and John Shadow make a nice pair so I would love to see them together. Fingers crossed!

The mystery behind the dodgy wine, the two storekeepers who hardly knew to run a business, a murder, a death in the hotel room (murder or accidental death?) and the corruptions in the church kept me guessing till the end. It’s almost Christmas and Jimmy’s wedding day when Shadow and Jimmy finally close the case. But Shadow is still not convinced… But Jimmy’s wedding must go as planned and as far as others are concerned, the case is closed.

Chief Inspector Shadow is a highly recommended series. If Poirot and Holmes were the greatest detectives of the Golden Age, John Shadow is the greatest detective of Modern times. 🙂

If you are looking for an engrossing and completely addictive detective fiction, I recommend you to give A Christmas Shadow by H.L. Marsay a try.


Many thanks to Helen and Tule Publishing for the ARC.

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