cover image The Shadow Man

The Shadow Man

John Katzenbach. Ballantine Books, $22 (468pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38629-8

Katzenbach (Just Cause) has some good Holocaust and WWII vignettes and pretty good cop-talk here, but the book is burdened by flat characterization, a slow pace, an odd, unsatisfying ending and a serious need for editing. Retired Miami PD detective Simon Winter is about to kill himself (for no visibly compelling reason) when his fearful neighbor, Mrs. Millstein, a Holocaust survivor, asks him for protection. She has just recognized the Shadow Man (Der Schattenmann), who'd turned her family in to the Nazis in Berlin 50 years earlier. The man was one of ``the catchers,'' Jews who betrayed other Jews to save their own skins. Simon calms her with a promise to help her in the morning. That night, she's murdered in an apparent burglary, and a young black man is seen fleeing the crime scene. The young Miami Beach detective working the case nabs the suspect, who says an old white man is the real killer. Meanwhile, another Holocaust survivor apparently commits suicide, and yet another disappears. Simon and the younger cop finally team up to find the Shadow Man-a hunt that seems to take forever as the plot is bogged down by drawn-out padding and red herrings. There's silly blather (suspects are ``the culmination of a set of facts, or a series of observations''), inept goofiness (``When one cracks the lid on Pandora's box, many questions slide out'') and just plain sloppiness. Worse, despite Katzenbach's interesting premise, we never get to care about these two-dimensional people. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; BOMC alternate. (May)