“The Shadow List” by Todd Moss is an international crime novel. Unlike other thrillers, this takes place in the non-traditional place of Nigeria with the non-traditional hero, Judd Ryker, heading the State Department’s Crisis Reaction Unit.
As a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the African Bureau, Moss is able to use his experience to help with the story.
“I am inspired by real people,” he said. “When I worked at the State Department, I knew of true heroes. One was an anti-corruption czar in Nigeria who had to endure many assassination attempts. This is the basis for this international thriller.”
Although this story can be read as a stand-alone there are some scenes that will be more understandable if the earlier books are read. It might be more helpful to learn the backstory on the characters and their motivations.
The two main characters are married with one working for the diplomatic corps and the other for the CIA, both in specialized units. They try to keep their jobs separate but as the story progresses their paths cross in a deadly way.
“The issues the main characters face are very real including the bureaucratic nonsense that prevents things from getting done,” Moss said. “A good example was Benghazi, a rapidly unfolding crisis that went very bad because the different parts of our government did not talk to each other very well. Regarding our intelligence agency, there are different units. The Red Cell I describe in the book is a special analytical unit and is real. It is the inspiration for the Purple Cell that Jessica heads up, which is not real.”
The plot had Judd tasked to rescue a kidnapped Wall Street consultant and a pro basketball player. At the same time, his wife Jessica is sent on a mission to discover who is the Russian mobster nicknamed “the Bear” and what are his intentions. Both he and his wife will end up in Nigeria together connected by a Nigerian Judge who is combating corruption in his country. There they realize how far each will go to save the good guys and thwart the bad guys.
An interesting part of the book examines the relationship between an operative and their spouse. Since Moss was a senior State Department official “I struggled with handling the classified information. I wanted to show in the book how Jessica had a hard time splitting in her mind what is classified and what is not. Eventually, anyone who works with classified information comes to the realization it is better not to talk about anything for fear of saying something they should not.”
The main characters are smart and appealing. The plot is exciting, captivating, and intriguing. Readers will enjoy a change of pace where diplomacy intertwines with the action.