||May 5, 2008
Jack Collins, a young American taken prisoner during the fall of the Philippines, survives the Bataan Death March, an odyssey that tested the very limits of human strength, only because of his determination to survive and the compassion of one of his captors, Lt. Kenji Tanaka. Years after the war, Jack returns to the scene of his ordeal in an attempt to bring closure to the nightmares that still haunt him, only to become convinced he must seek revenge for the worst atrocity ever committed against the American fighting man. Once again, Jack and Kenji are paired in a dark destiny in which one is the renegade killer with blood on his hands and the other is obligated to stop the killer roaming the streets of Tokyo.
In The Shadow of Death
In The Shadow of Death
Jack Collins, a young American soldier is able to survive the horrendous ordeal only because of the compassion of Lt. Kenji Tanaka, a Japanese officer who has serious reservations about the war his country’s leaders have launched against the United States. When a Japanese soldier attempts to drive a bayonet into Jack’s chest, Kenji deflects the deadly blade and Jack is only wounded. When a fellow POW rips open Jack’s shirt to treat the wound, a distinctive tattoo is revealed on Jack’ arm, a tattoo Kenji vows he’ll never forget.
After the war, both men live peaceful lives until the death of Jack’s wife and his return to the Philippines to seek closure of memories that have haunted him over the years. Instead of finding peace, seeing the places where he had suffered so much drives him into a state of paranoia and he becomes convinced that the Japanese are still holding Americans as slave labor. The obsession propels him to Japan to seek revenge against his old enemies.
A major plot point comes when the reader learns that Kenji Tanaka has pursued a career in law enforcement and must hunt down the killer stalking the streets of Tokyo.
In the stunning climax, Jack and Kenji face each other once again across the body of the latest victim. Jack recognizes the tall Japanese as the person who saved his life so many years ago and finds it impossible to harm him. Kenji, on the other hand, sees only a crazed killer and does the only thing he can do…stop him. Only when he sees Jack’s body in the morgue bearing the tattoo does he know he is the same he saved so many years before.
In The Shadow of Death
is a novel about the effect war has on the men and women who must fight our battles. In normal times, Jack Collins and Kenji Tanaka never would have known the other existed, but the vagaries of war bring men together in ways that alter the course of their lives in the most profound ways.
The latest weapon of The United States Submarine Service, The USS Mackerel, like some giant ocean predator, slides silently below the surface of the South China Sea on its maiden voyage. Its skipper, Lt. Commander William D. Richardson, scanned the surface of the water through the periscope, looking for the ship he and his crew had been stalking for the last eight hours. The sonar operator had detected the sound of a slow-moving freighter shortly before 11 p.m., but it was a dark, moonless night, and since Richardson hadn't been able to see the blacked-out ship, he’d played the waiting game. Trailing the target throughout the night, maintaining sonar contact until daylight, when, hopefully, a visual sighting could be made.
The Mackerel was one of four subs that had been sent to the South China Sea to prey on any type of Japanese ship they could find. So far, it had been a highly successful sortie. Each sub in the pack had a designated area to patrol, with The Mackerel lucky enough to be assigned to an area heavily traveled by all manner of Japanese ships. During the three weeks the Mackerel had cruised the area, it had made four kills on freighters and tankers and had heavily damaged a Japanese cruiser before being driven off by a speedy Japanese destroyer. Richardson had pulled every trick he knew to dodge the depth charges, zigzagging and changing depth, but explosions had come so close at times that the concussion knocked crewmen off their feet and caused the lights to flicker. To escape the relentless pursuit, he dived deep into the murky waters, shut down the engines and drifted silently as the destroyer prowled back and forth above them.
But now there was no destroyer to hunt them down and hitting the slow-moving freighter would be like shooting fish in a barrel. It would be a good kill. If it were a freighter, there would be just so much less ammo or supplies for the Japs to use. If it were a troop ship, he could kill, literally in minutes, more enemy soldiers than a whole regiment of infantry in a dozen battles. He raised the periscope at the exact time he knew the sun would rise out of the ocean. As he pivoted the scope to the west, he saw it. It would come briefly into view and then disappear again in the heavy seas, but now he knew exactly where it was. As he maneuvered into position for attack, he kept it in constant view. It was an old ship, its hull covered in a patchwork of rust and belching a thick column of black smoke from its funnel.
Richardson watched the ship for several minutes and then with four words, he sealed the fate of the Japanese ship.
"Fire one," and then "Fire two."
Watching through the periscope, his heart raced as he followed the torpedo wakes streaking toward the ship. It was always this way. The war had been going on for three years and every time he launched a torpedo, he always got that same rush of adrenaline. Then a plume of water, followed by another as the torpedoes slammed into the lumbering ship. Within minutes, the ship rolled on it’s side and slipped beneath the waves.
As a career military officer, Richardson had been trained to kill, but like most warriors, he had been taught that when an enemy could no longer do you harm, you did him no further harm. It was his practice, when possible, to rescue any survivors of his deadly attacks. Making certain once again that there were no Japanese warships nearby, he ordered The Mackerel to surface. As soon as the conning tower was clear of the surface he scrambled up the ladder. As he emerged from the hatch the acrid smell of burning oil filled his nostrils. The water was ablaze with a quickly spreading oil slick and there was very little debris to show that a ship had ever existed. As he scanned the area through his binoculars he could see heads being engulfed by flames…there was nothing he could do to save them. Suddenly one of the crewmen shouted,
"There's one over there."
Turning in the direction the sailor was pointing, he trained his binoculars on what appeared to be a hunk of wood floating clear of the blazing oil. At first, that was all he could see, a piece of floating wood, but when it rose on an ocean swell, he saw the man draped unconscious across the flotsam.
Racing the spreading flames, a dinghy was launched and the unconscious man was plucked from the sea and brought aboard The Mackerel.
Later, as medic's cleaned the oil and grime from the man's face, his eyes blinked and then opened. When he raised his arm to shield his eyes from the bright overhead light, Doc Lewis, the boats surgeon, saw an American Eagle tattoo on the left shoulder.
"Go get the skipper. This is no Jap."
Aformer World War II POW goes on a vengeful murder spree only to be hunted by the Japanese soldier who
once saved his life, in Littlejohn’s debut novel.
The narrative begins in 1941, two years into World War II, when American soldier Jack Collins is taken prisoner
in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan. Like most POW camps, the one that confines Jack is a hellish
nightmare, most powerfully underscored by the Bataan Death March, during which innumerable detainees are
raped, disemboweled or—mercifully—just beaten within an inch of their lives. It seems Jack’s number is up when
he is nearly on the receiving end of a bayonet stabbing. Amazingly, a compassionate Japanese officer, Lt. Kenji
Tanaka, deflects the attack, allowing Jack to live and return to America upon emancipation. Forty three years later,
Jack descends on Tokyo to exact a bloody revenge on the men who terrorized him and, as the body count rises, he finds himself pursued by an unlikely
adversary: Kenji, now a Tokyo police officer. The novel is decidedly less literary than cinematic, but that doesn’t much matter. Littlejohn hinges
his narrative effectively and vividly on one of the lesser-pillaged events of World War II and delivers a nail-biting thriller. The setup is a somewhat
rickety but, like any book of this genre, the implausibility is eclipsed by the deft employment of pulse-quickening action. This is a high-stakes game
of cat-and-mouse complicated by the fact that both Jack and Kenji are fully developed, likable characters. With readers rooting for both sides, it
becomes impossible to foresee or want an outcome. Littlejohn could let go of some of the loftier literary aspirations that creep in from time to time—
especially the superfluous epigraphs—but even they can’t slow this fast-paced, suspenseful effort. Whether the book falters on its own ambition or
not, it proves a rewarding read.
A suspenseful thriller equipped with the volatility of a ticking bomb.
Littlejohn, Walter B.
IN THE SHADOW
BookSurge (330 pp.)
October 21, 2008
Kirkus Discoveries, Nielsen Business Media, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!