BookBrowse Reviews The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Shadow Walker

by Michael Walters

The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters X
The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Aug 2008, 352 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Beth Hemke Shapiro

Buy This Book

About this Book



The first in a new mystery series set in Mongolia

Crime novels are a dime a dozen, but The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters stands apart for both its exotic setting in modern-day Mongolia and its intriguing investigator Nergui. Offering a fast-paced and dark setting, Walters, a management consultant, presents an exciting debut novel.

Throughout the book the author provides detailed descriptions of Mongolia, the resulting portrait is of an unsettled country, formerly occupied by the Soviet government and now feeling the effects of western modernization, all the while maintaining its nomadic history. Here, for example, is British police officer Drew McLeish's first glimpse of Ulan Baatar's city center:

The road widened into a brightly lit avenue, lined with a mix of official-looking buildings, many studded with communist emblems, and newer commercial offices, some with Korean, Japanese or even American business names .... This could be any Eastern European city struggling to come to grips with life after the Soviet Union—the first shoots of Western capitalism alongside drab weathered concrete, poorly maintained roads and streetlights, shabby squares and inner-city parks. Familiar logos, neon-lit on the summits of office buildings, competed with stylized images of soldiers and stars—the fading murals of communism.

Adding to the exotic flavor of Ulan Baatar are the settlements of the traditional round nomadic tents, gers, found on the outskirts of the city, adjacent to the bland apartment complexes originating from the Communist era. The author also draws attention to the culture clash of Mongolian clothing, ranging from cheaply made, mass-produced Chinese suits to traditional dels, heavy robes with ornate belts, worn by both steppe herdsmen as well as older urban residents.

Nergui, former head of the Serious Crimes Team who rose through the police ranks during Communist oppression, represents as much of a mélange of cultures as does Ulan Baatar. As Drew studies Nergui's physical appearance, he notes his distinctive Mongolian features with dark and almost leathery skin, "…as though it had been burnished by the sun and wind of the desert," as well as his high-quality suit contrasting with his garish shirt and tie. Having studied in both London and Boston, Nergui has adopted certain Western characteristics, but Drew recognizes Mongolia's past in him, too, sensing "it would not be difficult…to imagine him, centuries before, riding out as a member of Genghis Khan's armies, leading the conquest of the known world." With his questionable former ties to the Communist government, as well as his experience in the West, Nergui, like his country, remains mysterious.

A few times clues emerge a tad bit too conveniently. In a mining site shanty town Nergui and his protégé Doripalam seemingly stumble upon a former revolutionary, who provides plenty of useful information. Later, as Nergui wonders how Doripalam unearths a slew of impressive connections, the latter vaguely replies, "Did a bit of searching on the internet—got some basic information. Also got some data from government systems."

Overall, however, the book successfully combines an unusual locale with plenty of thrills, and readers will eagerly look forward to reading the next two books in the series - Adversary and The Outcast (both published in the UK in 2008, USA publication date unknown).

Gers or Yurts

The Mongolian ger (known more commonly as a yurt in the West) has been used as a home by steppe nomads for more than 2500 years and is still a common home even in urban areas.

Since nomads relocate many times over a year, it is essential that their dwellings be easily assembled and dismantled. A ger can be erected within a few hours on top of a wooden floor. While in the summer this floor remains slightly off of the ground to avoid moisture, in the winter it is constructed directly onto the soil in order to prevent drafts. The structure's support frame is made of wood with lattices forming a circular wall, with a post-and-lintel doorway always pointing toward the south. Willow rods attach to the framework and join at a wooden hoop to form the roof. The cover consists primarily of wool felt swathed with white cotton. Once inside, a basic stove heats a ger during cold weather. A family can load their dismantled ger and belongings rapidly onto a truck or a camel train. Usually one truck or six camels can haul a family's ger and possessions.

Architecturally fascinating, a ger's vast roof span is achievable without the need for the usual internal supports such as posts, trusses, or beams. This is due to the arrangement of the roof's central compression ring and a tension band where the roof attaches to the wall. The strong roofline is able to withstand earthquakes, wind, and snow.

A ger is a Mongolian herder's most valuable possession, and when a couple gets married, its family will either construct or purchase a ger as their new home. Each family has its own ger.

Several websites show fascinating pictures of gers and yurts, including,, and

Yurts are gaining in popularity outside of Mongolia. Starting at around USA $5000 for a 16 ft diameter model, yurts can be used in non-traditional ways for park camping, back-country skiing, studios, bed-and-breakfasts, and resorts.

Reviewed by Beth Hemke Shapiro

This review is from the November 12, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Calypso
    by David Sedaris
    David Sedaris' Calypso is every bit as hilarious and irreverent, as clever and incisive, as ...
  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.