1916, Bois de Bolante, France. The battles in the trenches are raging fiercer than ever. In a deserted mineshaft, French sappeurs discover an unconscious man, and nickname him The Mole.
Welcome to one of the September 1st stops on the blog tour for The Shadow of the Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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About the Book
The Shadow Of The Mole
by Bob Van Laerhoven
Published 5 February 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Page Count: 420
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1916, Bois de Bolante, France. The battles in the trenches are raging fiercer than ever. In a deserted mineshaft, French sappers discover an unconscious man and nickname him The Mole
Claiming he has lost his memory, The Mole is convinced that he’s dead and that an Other has taken his place. The military brass considers him a deserter, but front physician and psychiatrist-in-training Michel Denis suspects that his patient’s odd behavior is stemming from shellshock and tries to save him from the firing squad.
The mystery deepens when The Mole begins to write a story in écriture automatique that takes place in Vienna, with Dr. Josef Breuer, Freud’s teacher, in a leading role. Traumatized by the recent loss of an arm, Denis becomes obsessed with his patient and is prepared to do everything he can to unravel his secret.
Set against the staggering backdrop of the First World War, The Shadow Of The Mole is a thrilling tableau of loss, frustration, anger, madness, secrets, and budding love. The most urgent question in this extraordinary story is: when, how, and why does reality shift into delusion?
It happened as in a dream, swift and intense.
A few meters from the other bank, the ice cracked beneath Denis’s feet.
A sliding sensation, his stomach lurching into his throat.
The water underneath the ice was black.
The water seemed to throw itself at Denis and the one-legged soldier.
Afterwards, Denis would remember the episode as if a vicious animal had indeed jumped out of the hole in the ice.
Slipping, the young doctor instinctively let go of the wounded man. Hands pulled him away from the hole into which the one-legged soldier disappeared without a sound.
Denis got to his feet, helped by the hands. He stared at the almost perfect circle of oily black water. A tingling sensation in his chest. He looked up. The Mole held him like he was a child. “I was prepared to die,” the patient said with that mechanical voice, “but now I realize I have to fulfil a duty: I must tell my story. It has to be chronicled.”
Before Denis could answer, Marie Estrange slid past The Mole, holding a blanket in her hands, wrapping it around Denis’s body.
“You have to keep on moving or you’ll die of frostbite,” she said.
Only then did Denis notice that his body was trembling uncontrollably.
My Rating: 4 Stars
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I was granted complimentary access to The Shadow of the Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Goddess Fish Promotions. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
The Shadow Of The Mole is a wartime historical fiction unlike any I’ve ever read before. A mysterious fallen soldier dubbed The Mole, injured to the point that he shouldn’t survive and unable to remember who he is or how he got there, The Mole’s journaling eventually impacts the course of history when those around him, such as Dr. Michel Denis, chose to take it seriously.
I absolutely loved the immersion into WWI-era Europe from this humbling perspective, and as a former university level student of British 20th century wartime history, I didn’t find anything to be distractingly wrong about the events going on around the characters that didn’t otherwise fit the story.
I did find the transitions to some of the flashbacks to earlier points in time were sudden in a way that I didn’t always realize we’d made a jump at first. I was letting the screenreader read the book to me quite a bit so it’s possible there are formatting clues on the page that I missed by reading the book this way. This means any potential narrated audiobook would have the same effect and therefore the transitions weren’t written in a way that would be inclusive to primarily-audio readers.
My one big stumbling point in deciding how to rate this book is my feelings on a particular word that was used repeatedly throughout the book. People of Romani origin are constantly and exclusively referred to using the G slur, up to and including referring to an individual as “The G*psy” even when other monikers would have been understood. On one hand, this is a historically accurate term and the less-than-human way these people are treated is also accurate. On the other hand, this term wasn’t the only widely used word for Romani or other travellers, and it’s treated as a racial slur by many Romani groups in this century. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether or not the people referred to by this term in the book are indeed Romani, the racial group the term was originally applied to, or an unrelated group of travellers (such as the Irish and Scottish Travellers.) If the latter is true, then the use of the term is particularly uncomfortable as it’s a prime example of the British colonialist practice of taking a slur used for one group of people and applying it to everyone who slots into an arbitrary category along with them. I understand introducing the term to ensure all readers are on the same page, or having one particular character use it to further colour that character, but the extent to which it was used in this book was exceedingly uncomfortable to read at times.
Overall I do think the story is very well written and the mystery presented by the character of The Mole is fascinating. If you like wartime historical fiction, you need to give this one a try!
About the Author
A full-time Belgian/Flemish author, Laerhoven has published 43 books in Holland and Belgium. His literary work is translated and republished in French, English, German, Spanish, Slovenian, Swedish, Italian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.
• Four-time finalist of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year with the novels “Djinn,” “The Finger of God,” “Return to Hiroshima,” and “The Firehand Files.”
• Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for “Baudelaire’s Revenge,” which also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense.”
• In 2018, Crime Wave Press published “Return to Hiroshima,” after “Baudelaire’s Revenge,” his second novel in English Translation.
• His collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions,” first published by The Anaphora Literary Press in the USA in 2015, was hailed as “best short story collection of 2015” by the San Diego Book Review. The collection is translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
• In 2018, The Anaphora Literary Press published “Heart Fever,” the second collection of short stories. With this collection, Laerhoven became the only non-American author to be selected as a finalist in the Silver Falchion 2018 Award, in the category “short stories collections.”
• In addition, the quality English book site Murder, Mayhem & More chose “Return to Hiroshima” as one of the ten best international crime books of 2018. Readers’ Favorite rated the novel Five Stars.
• In August 2021, Next Chapter published the third novel in English: “Alejandro’s Lie,” set in a fictitious Latin-American dictatorship. Best Thriller Book Awards winner in the category « Political Thriller 2021″ on BestThrillers.com
• In February 2022, Next Chapter published “The Shadow Of The Mole,” the fourth novel in English.
The author will award a $10 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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