Earlier this month, I welcomed with open arms to the top of my reading pile the publication of a brand new Eddie Chase and Nina Wilde thriller by Andy McDermott, The Valhalla Prophecy. You can read the review of what is a truly wonderful adventure here. During the gap between the Chase/Wilde thrillers, McDermott has been busy and The Shadow Protocol is the result. Published last year in the UK as The Persona Protocol and about to be released this week in the US under this new name, The Shadow Protocol is a different kettle of fish all together but the one thing it most definitely does have in common with the more familiar series is Andy McDermott’s top class prose. It shines with humour, warmth and danger.
The Shadow Protocol puts the reader into territory that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Mission Impossible or James Bond novel or movie. No expense is spared, no gadget or mode of transport unavailable, as our group of characters go about their business of saving the world – in this novel, from terrorists after the ultimate weapon. Fortunately, our heroes have the ultimate device to stop them.
Adam Gray is an American secret. He appears wiped of memories, experiences and personality. They’re not required. Instead, Gray is able to take on the identity of anyone he wishes for a full day, thanks to the incredible invention of the protocol. This mind reading or personality transference bit of kit enables Adam and his team to swoop in, seize a suspect, take on his thoughts and effectively interrogate himself until sleep removes the connection. The victim’s short term memory is erased and so he has no idea of what has just happened. So our team is able to jump towards their suspect, one victim at a time. Of course, if you need to fly a plane, win at cards or conduct surgery, then this device can prove its handiness time after time. But there is a downside – too many repeat protocols with the same victim and the results might be harmful for Adam. And what about Adam’s memories? Where are they? What were they?
The Shadow Protocol leaps from one outrageous scenario to another, each vying with the one before for sheer audacity and nerve. There’s barely time to draw breath before Adam and the others are yet again up to their necks in it. The story, though, is given an extra human touch thanks to the introduction of Bianca Childs, whose job is to look after the medical side of the protocol. As she becomes caught up in the adventure, she takes on much more than that until she is the thriller’s greatest source of glamour and humour. Even Adam begins to open up to this exciting young woman. There are lines of dialogue here that made me laugh outloud (McDermott’s books always make me do that) and I really enjoyed the interplay between Bianca and Adam.
While I did enjoy the premise of The Shadow Protocol, the main let down in the novel for me was the plot. I found it rather dull and, most unfortunately of all, very predictable. I did guess the outcome. Of course, this is a book that has a great deal to compete with – the Eddie and Nina thrillers are among the very best of their genre. The Shadow Protocol just doesn’t have the same flare or excitement or sheer exuberance despite all the huge efforts (which were appreciated) of the very likeable Bianca and Adam. I can understand McDermott striking out for something new and I think that this could become a compelling series of its own. The ingredients are there, it just needs a spark to set it afire.