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The Shadow


English sample available

When death is only the beginning. The Shadow is a fantasy thriller, much in the spirit of Neil Gaiman, that blends the superhero genre with authentic stories from a rich and violent Russian history.

On a hot August night, a girl in downtown Moscow is ran over by a car. This is not an ordinary hit-and-run, but a premeditated murder. However, the murder is deemed an accident and an innocent migrant worker is quickly arrested – he was driving a street-sweeping truck on the same street.

Stepan is a Moscow police detective. Far from a hero, he is just an ordinary Russian cop – a little corrupt, indifferent, not outright evil, but getting there. His one redeeming quality is his soft spot for girls who fell victim to violent crimes, due to his own past. Stepan will easily take a bribe from a drug-dealer, but Lord have mercy on a rapist who will cross paths with him. Sonya’s death worries Stepan, who sets out to find the truth, ignoring the violent objections and direct order of his superior officer not to dig into it. He quickly realizes that he will lose his job if he doesn’t stop, but before he can admit defeat and fall in line, Stepan is gunned down by two of his fellow officers. His body is thrown into a sewage well.

This is how the story begins.

Stepan finds himself in The Other Moscow – the so-called subMoscow, where all the unclaimed dead of the city’s 900 years of history live. But Stepan is no ordinary deceased, he was chosen by the City as a Champion. Not unlike a huge prehistoric animal, the City can sense danger. It knows not where the danger is coming from, but it chooses a Champion – someone who will find and neutralize the threat. The chosen Champion is known as The Shadow. As a reward the City gives The Shadow a chance at redemption, a chance to avoid hell. It also gives The Champion a superpower: an ability to inhabit shadows.

Stepan soon realizes that death brought him true freedom. He no longer has desires, he no longer has to play by anyone’s rules, he can be himself. With grim satisfaction Stepan agrees that a dead cop is a good cop. And now this good cop will find the people who are responsible for his death. And, while he’s at it, save the city.

Each chapter of The Shadow begins with a small story about a violent death that took place in Moscow. A 6-years old Polish girl beheaded in 1606 Moscow uprising. An elderly man shot and killed by an APC near a Ostankinskaya television tower in 1993. A wealthy American murdered for disrespecting a black club-owner in 1915. The instigator of a plague riot shot by the soldiers in Red Square. Not just people, every building here is a part of history. And each will play their part in Stepan’s quest to save the city from the deadly plans that some maniac in power has schemed for Moscow.

While the tone of the story is always gripping and entertaining, the novel deals with important issues of the modern Moscow, from racism and discrimination to financial and gender inequality, domestic violence, police and state corruption – and evil personified ruling the land.

The author’s background in history studies finds its way in the world and heroes of the novel.

— Labyrinth

There is Mitya, the oracle, who connects the two worlds; the group of subway constructors having grown into one entity; Saint Basil’s Cathedral turned into a Gaudi-style utopian building in Moscow Down Under…Readers find numerous dreamlike visual discoveries in the spirit of Gaiman and Melville in the text.

— Afisha Daily

Ivan Philippov has a masterly command of film production methods, which results in this fascinating story with a range of interweaving storylines from different periods of Moscow’s history that tie together in a grand finale.

— Antenna Daily

This novel is written by a Muscovite who loves his city and knows its history very well. Philippov integrates unfamiliar contexts into a swift, modern and daring narrative, and does this with mastery, ease and wit. To read Philippov’s The Shadow is a pure and not useless pleasure.

— Alexander Rodnyansky, a film producer

Book details

Inspiria (Eksmo)

Novel, 2022

352 pp

Rights sold

  • Audio rights Storytel Original

Literary awards

  • Longlisted for the National Bestseller prize 2022

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