BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bea Reviews The Shadow Cartel by Layton Green

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Series: Dominic Grey #4
Format Read: eGalley
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Challenges: Finishing the Series | May 2015 Clean Sweep ARC Challenge | NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge |
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | Barnes & Noble
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

The sins of the past always return…

Called upon by a former love to look into the death of a family friend in Miami, veteran investigator Dominic Grey is sucked into the darkest reaches of international narcotics trafficking. The murders of multiple drug dealers during a bizarre religious ceremony, combined with the appearance of a mythical assassin, take DEA agent Federico Hernandez and CIA operative Lana Valenciano down the same deadly path.

Lying in wait is an enemy known only as the General: a criminal mastermind whose uncanny ability to avoid detection while cowing even the most ruthless of rival cartels has made him a legend.

Thrown together on a covert manhunt, Grey and the two government agents race across the Americas to unearth a dark chapter in the history of the CIA that has spilled into the present—and put them in the crosshairs of an underworld puppeteer with a frightening reach.

Bea's Thoughts:

What I Loved:

1) The religious and mythological aspects. Green does a fantastic job weaving these in and making them believable and I love learning about religions and myths. I was a philosophy and religion major at college and I've always loved myths. The premise of the series involves cults and religions so I was sold right from the first book. :D

2) Dominic Grey - he's a fascinating, complex character. He's well aware of his flaws and weaknesses and tries not be a jerk unnecessarily. He owns up to his mistakes and has a strong code he lives by. He tries to do no harm but has no qualms about defending himself or innocents, and has a strong vengeful streak.

3) Shades of grey (heh, didn't want to resist). We have everything from pure white to stark black and every shade in between. Mostly, there's a lot of gray. Dominic and his employer Viktor often disagree on details but generally agree on the big picture, which is rescuing people from cults and investigating cults.

He missed Viktor's experience and steady mind on this case, felt adrift without him. Grey doubted he would ever feel at home in the world of cults and bizarre religions and mysterious phenomena, but that was okay. He didn't have to be comfortable to make a difference. 

For Viktor, it's the intellectual challenge he craves:

"Your weak spot is solving the mysteries of the universe, Viktor. Putting bastards like this in the ground is mine."...That which Viktor craved was the inexplicable, the divine, the pieces of the cosmic puzzle. More than ever, he had grown weary of the evil that men do, and wished only to sink into the mysteries of the world.

Grey, as you see, isn't overly worried about obeying the letter, or even the spirit, of the law. That can present a problem when he's working with officials as he does in this story. Though, these officials are more willing than some to look the other way.

What I Liked:

1) Most of the characters are complex and well-developed, with an exception noted in the section below. No one is all good or all bad, everyone has their flaws and their good points, even the major villain. Also, Viktor has had a problem with an absinthe addiction over the course of the series and in this book, it's tackled head on.

2) I actually felt sorry for our bad guy at one point, when we meet him early on. His evolution, though it stretched credibility a bit, was mostly believable. That it was anchored in a real world cult tragedy helped.

3)I liked the open ending of the book; it was both realistic and a good story device. In mysteries, I tend to prefer my endings tied up but I know that in real life that rarely happens. An author who can have the story conclude with those open threads and not leave me frustrated or annoyed has written a good ending. That said, there was an event near the end that was practically the definition of deus ex machina and I was rolling my eyes. And yet, Green nearly ties it into earlier events and gives us a twist at the same time. I didn't see the twist coming and yet the hints were there.

4) The settings. This is another strength of the series. Grey and Viktor travel the world for their research and investigations and you feel as if you are there; the sounds, the sights, the smells. I don't know if Green actually visits his locations or just does an excellent job of research but I never feel as if I'm reading a travel brochure or a Wikipedia article.

What I Hated:  *rape trigger*

Okay, about those complex, well-developed characters. There are two glaring exceptions - the women, Nya and Lana. All throughout the series, Green's weakness has been writing female characters. They're generally not weak but they don't stand well on their own, most of them need a man to complete them. Most of them are accessories.

The main problem I have is the misogyny and there's a crap ton of it. The women in the books are consistently the victims of rape or other sexual assault and several have also been tortured. Women exist to be raped and seemingly they have to be raped in order to be interesting. I understand that rape and sexual assault happen, often, in the real world, hell, I've been there, and Grey moves in a violent world. But, if Green can't write strong, interesting, compelling female characters without subjecting them to rape and violence then maybe he should not include women in the series.

After the third book, I thought maybe I was done with the series because of the consistent violence toward women. But I gave this book a chance since the series has so many strong points. Now, I just don't know. I enjoy the stories but I can't condone the violence and the misogyny toward women.

My review of Book 1, The Summoner
My review of Book 2, The Egyptian
My review of Book 3, The Diabolist


  1. Good review, Bea. I think the misogyny will keep me from reading it, which is too bad as some of the rest sounds interesting.

    1. It would be a great series if not for the treatment of the women in the stories. I can typically read these books in or two long sittings, they're engrossing.

  2. The story line sounds really interesting but Lark I think treatment of the female characters will keep me from reading. That's too bad because it sounds like this series has a lot going for it.


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