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4.4 out of 5 stars
19
4.4 out of 5 stars


on 25 June 2017
Mr Cappa has delivered a cracking read. The narrative ticks along from the beginning at a lovely pace and is sustained throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed the various locations which are vividly described, and this is underpinned by wonderful characters (Artie and Didar are a real treat). Equally, the dialogue is crisp and edgy. This is seriously good stuff and I look forward to getting stuck into books 2 and 3.
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on 2 October 2017
A long, may be drawn out, story of an American soldier suffering from what we used to call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. An ordinary G. I. with no special forces training , he is inveigled into action by all sorts of friends and shadowy Government Agencies (not them again - 'fraid so) to go to Turkey and follow up on a secret mission started by his life-long friend. His modus operandi is crude to say the least. He makes up for his lack of training by occasionally going berserk (in a literal manner) . The corpses pile up, who is friend and who is enemy keeps changing and the story develops into yet another group of American Far Right bigwigs that are trying to stage 9/11 mk2 to drag America into nuclear war with Iran. Behind all this (been done before to death) is intertwined the Irish struggle and the shadows still cast by the "Troubles". Not wishing to be left out an Irish Priest with odd connections to the Vatican also plays a leading role, with bit parts by British Special forces, Iranian special forces, a Turkish secret service man. The character list is almost endless. All our hero wants to do is get home and try to regain his ex wife's affection and to build bridges with his similarly estranged son (and of course save America.)
It is to the author's credit that he just about stops this diverse character set and very complex plot from becoming a complete dog's breakfast.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 August 2012
Blood From A Shadow is an interesting book that attempts an new approach to the conspiracy action thriller, but even read on this surface level alone, it's written in a way that delivers thrills without insulting your intelligence. Con Maznazpy, an Irish-American with a Polish surname, is a New York veteran of the Iraq war, still bearing the scars of his experience. He's still trying to pull his life together when he's asked to make a trip to Ireland to visit the family of his former best friend Ferdia McErlane, whose father has committed suicide apparently after a failed property deal in Turkey. Suspicious of the means by which this request is delivered, Con nonetheless returns to the old homeland only to find that there is indeed rather more to the request than was admitted, and it leads him across Europe and Asia before back to New York on the trail of much a bigger conspiracy.

Cappa however hints that there is a parallel reading to be found here with the book of Irish legends featuring the mythical hero Cú Chulainn, known as the Táin. Those references aren't obvious or belabored however, the novel drawing from them rather in order to examine wider questions on the need for heroes - which still have relevance in the modern age, whether through movie action heroes or sporting superstars - and on the attributes of bonds of loyalty to friends, to a cause or to an ideal that goes beyond consideration of duty or political gain. But it also questions whether that is even possible and whether there isn't an overriding genealogical imperative of blood at work that drives these unknowable actions. Whether it's through this literary subtext or whether it's through the strengths in the writing itself, Blood From A Shadow does have an indefinable quality and true originality, finding a way to delve into a particularly Irish sensibility that has deep historical and mythological roots in its connection with the United States, and it places an unusual spin on a conventional genre that at times gives it an almost otherworldly quality.

Con's arrival in Belfast and Ireland as the first stop in his journey is an important starting point, his encounters with the legacy of the Troubles managing to touch on some dark moments in history and reveal aspects of national characteristics that go back through the ages. It serves as a means for the Irish-American Con to get in touch with his roots before the theme is developed further as he travels to Rome and Istanbul to discover that there are parallels to Irish history throughout the age and across the globe, and seemingly no end in sight to the cycle of conflict, war and atrocity that has been the legacy of the ambitions of mankind from time immemorial. Whether it's the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Auschwitz, 9/11 or Iraq, it's a scene that has been played out time and time again, and Con finds himself following in the footsteps of other legendary great warriors that history has had need for in such times. Blood From A Shadow then uses the conspiracy thriller plot - as well as considerations of history and religion - in their context of a wider search for meaning. Considering these subjects, war, religion, conflict, heroism and atrocities have been always with us, surely this must be part of a bigger picture, or at least say something about human nature?

Gerard Cappa brings all these themes and deeper considerations together with admirable ease. Blood From A Shadow is very well-written in this respect, the descriptions are strong and clear enough to follow exactly where you are, the dialogue rings true without being openly expositional, reflecting the nature of the characters, their motivations and actions. Personally, my only issue is that Con is a bit of a stock character, a war veteran, tormented by what he has experienced, prone to violent thoughts and flashbacks, but in some respects, Cappa uses these characteristics in order to subvert them and the traditional idea of how a hero should be as Con struggles with the question of whether his actions, undertaken for the most noble of reason, don't indeed serve the agendas of others. As far-fetched as the revelations of a complex worldwide conspiracy might seem, in many ways it reflects the reality and the wider implications of military intervention in the world today, and the dangers of them spinning off to have unforeseen and devastating consequences.
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on 8 August 2012
This Belfast writer's thriller incorporates not only the 2012 presidential election, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and Al Qaeda's threats. It turns to ancient Ulster mythic figures, Cú Chullain and his foster-brother and best friend Ferdia, to enrich this presentation of two contemporary veterans from Route Irish and the war for Baghdad. Con Maknazpy (hold on for the spelling; I happened to have guessed correctly its derivation, but it was a long shot!) and Ferdy McIlhane, pals from Yonkers, after a traumatic, pyrrhic first scene of strife in Iraq, meet separation. Con seeks to find out Ferdy's fate.

The mission with which Con's entrusted takes him to Belfast, Rome, Istanbul, and then back to New York City. Without any plot spoilers, suffice to say that Gerard Cappa's pace never lets up. His love for action sustains very brutal showdowns in three out of the four locales. However, he eases up the tension, amid considerable body counts and a massive amount of woe inflicted on and by the mid-thirties Con which seemed indeed to recall his Irish predecessor, that may defy a bit of belief, as required for such tales. Other allusions, to Rostram and Sohrab of Persian lore, to the Peacock Angel of the Yazidi Kurds, owls and crows of Celtic shapeshifting, Columbus, the Crusades, and the 69th Fighting Irish of the US Army--from the Civil War to Operation Enduring Freedom--show Gerry Cappa's wide-ranging interests, as he deftly incorporates them into the espionage and thriller genres.

As Gallogly keeps telling our compromised, conflicted hero, Con tends to radiate trouble around himself. He narrates his own story--this does lessen a bit of suspense as happens in such conventions. Wisely, Cappa balances this narrative choice with legendary resonances which play into the Irish, American, and Middle Eastern contentions for heroism, idealism, hubris and folly effectively.

Con surrounds himself with many who try to throw him off his course of investigating what may be a heroin trafficking network from the opium fields through the Middle East to Turkey, into Europe, and over via Ireland to the States. The old Irish republican gun-running trails, it seems, may be to blame. For this reason, Con's singled out, as he learns, to come to Ireland and to begin his frenetic quest.

The author likes to fill you in on the characters, who pop up regularly to try to help or fool the protagonist. Eddie the bartender "once had a grand Roman nose but now it folded under his right eye," while a beefy concierge displays "white bristles wired out of his grainy pore craters of his nose, shoulders made for bouncing the lowlifes and carrying the highlifes." Con tends to meet the lowlifes.

Con's story does get complicated. Red herrings abound, and false leads. The Turkish sections become very intricate, so the busy plot demands patience amidst the threats and mayhem, as in the midst of rapid movements and conversations with which I sought to keep up. Similarly, its New York scenes turn as energetically as a quickly edited sequence from a film such as "The Bourne Identity."

Admittedly, small drawbacks caused me to rate this less than a flawless five stars. (I wish Amazon gave reviewers more nuance; I thank the author for providing me with a Kindle copy to evaluate) The opening blurb has two spelling errors, and the first of many comma splices. These may be a stylistic tick, or a difference between Irish and American usage, yet as with some inconsistency in capitalization of proper nouns for national references, the use of a lower-case "and" whenever this commenced a sentence, and a few typos in the story proper, these do undermine the presentation.

Setting this so soon in the future--almost in real time, as it starts October 2012--is a daring choice. It may shorten its shelf life. But even when we know who will be elected as the next president, it's a worthwhile look at the costs that international strife exacts on everyday folks, even if fewer of these exist among the more devious and less honest men and women who fill these pages.

All the same, vivid descriptions of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Belfast breeze, a venerable Roman church, or the brief camaraderie afforded our harried hero in a Bronx pub provide necessary respite among the skulduggery. Con needed a chance to recuperate now and then, considering his record in the ring lashing out against all who try to tame him. Cú Chulainn in the "Táin" translations of Thomas Kinsella underwent "warp-spasms" or Ciaran Carson "torque"; here, Con enters a "red cycle," "dark energy," and "soul plasma" as he faces off against inner ghosts and haunting demons not only on the outside, as his antagonists. This layer deepens the impact of this rousing debut, and I hope to hear more from the hero, once he recovers from his notably bloody routs!
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on 25 November 2012
Cornelius Maknazpy, a Polish-American Rambo tormented by his experiences in Iraq, and especially by an incident in which his closest friend went insane, is approached by an untrustworthy acquaintance to investigate a property scam in Turkey. Things just get more complicated from there, particularly as virtually nothing in the preceding sentence turns out to be true. It's a tribute to the author's abilities that his book can demolish both its hero's illusions and its readers' expectations (psychological, national or parental) without ever seeming contrived, manipulative or politically correct. The story also displays a commendable ruthlessness: unlike many thrillers, this one treats the death of innocents as considerably more than a plot motor, and we are never allowed to forget that being injured hurts (Con is tough, but he never degenerates into a superhero) and that redemption comes at a price. The style is plain, and sometimes plain slangy ("thru" for "through", indeed!), but keeps lurching lyrically off at unexpected moments, and the plot and characters incorporate various Easter eggs from Irish history and myth: all very fitting in a first-person account by this deceptively simple character.
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on 21 June 2012
I agree with the reviewer who said this is something different. This is obviously a serious writer who just happens to be writing in the thriller genre.
The plot unfolds slowly but that reinforces the sense that the lead character is being driven by circumstances he neither understands or controls.
He takes us to Rome and Istanbul and we see a side of those cities that don't usually feature in thrillers.
A rewarding read with thought provoking undertones.
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on 24 October 2012
This is a fast paced political conspiracy thriller with a dense layer of plot and subtext.
The hero is not the typical American hero asserting the usual `might is right' philosophy. He does seem to have a conscience but just has difficulty bringing it to the surface. He is always ready for violent action and mercy is in short supply; but thankfully he doesn't try to justify it with the expected platitudes.
The dialogue with other characters debates the rights and wrongs of duty and obligation but this is delivered carefully so never sounds like a lecture or the author's pet theory, and subplots lend weight to the main theme, without becoming a distraction.
For example, the diversion to Istanbul presents an opportunity to contrast western and eastern attitudes.
"But there are no accidents. How can these things happen if they have no purpose?" says one character, a Turkish Gypsy and underdog in the story. The hero has no answers but he narrates the story as an underdog himself, and that is a refreshing twist on the usual predictable `hero' ideal we have come to expect in thrillers.
The writing has a very visual appeal and may owe as much to cinematic tradition as literary ones but that only adds to the contemporary, fast pace of the book.
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on 22 August 2012
I am a thriller and action fan and I havent found a book that has satisfied my love of the genre since the Millenium Trilogy.I was hooked straight away with the authors flare for writing complex characters and wanted to find out more about each one. I loved the settings in this book as they were a bit different than the usual new york and london, instead we were taken to Belfast,Istanbul and Rome, although New York does feature in the book. Each scene and dialogue were written so well that I was sucked in and felt an understanding and affinity with even the craziest and nastiest characters. The sometimes violent and chaotic scenes that happen mostly to the central character were written so well that they remained believable throughout. I like to guess what will happen to characters early on in the book but couldnt have guessed the twists that made this book a very exciting read. I read this book in 3 evenings which is a personal record!

I feel there is so much more scope for a second book and room for character development.
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HALL OF FAMEon 15 August 2012
One other reviewer on this site has summarized BLOOD FROM A SHADOW by Gerard Cappa better than I could hope to do even if I had the energy to attempt it. Suffice it to say that the novel's "hero", Con Maknazpy, is a seriously disturbed veteran of the 69th New York Infantry Regiment and the Iraq war with strong ties to Ireland. Con is now thrust into the role of a Rambo-like character, a job for which his talent for extreme physical aggression lends itself well. The motto of the 69th is "Gentle When Stroked; Fierce When Provoked." Here, there's a lot of the latter going on and not much of the former.

The plot is placed in New York, the Irish Republic, and Istanbul; the time is October - December 2012 to make it contemporary with the upcoming Presidential Election for no reason that adds particularly to the storyline.

BLOOD FROM A SHADOW, with several distinctively drawn and interesting characters, is fast-paced with a super abundance of sub-plots, story line twists, and gritty violence to satisfy any aficionado of the genre. However, it's the excess of the sub-plots and twists that causes me to knock off a star - and almost two stars - from what is otherwise an excellent read. Sometimes simpler and more subtle is better. BLOOD FROM A SHADOW is simply over the top.

It also doesn't help that I don't consider Maknazpy a heroic enough figure to warrant a continuing role. If he were to become the basis for a series, I wouldn't bother buying into it. (Note to the author: Cora is infinitely more intriguing and promising for sequels.) While Con has Jack Reacher's raw fighting talent, he lacks Jack's innate stability and respectability. Maknazpy is too burdened with mental baggage from his Army experience and his childhood.

BLOOD FROM A SHADOW will perhaps keep you turning the pages. But at its conclusion, I wondered to what end I had arrived.
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on 23 June 2012
worth staying with the character as he moves across the pond and further afield.The events unfold and the reader has no idea where they will arrive- exciting stuff with characters that are as tough as the wars they have fought.Should appeal to anyone who likes to travel,keep up with current affairs and always had a concern that there was more to the local priest than meets the eye !Blood from a Shadow
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