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Summary and book reviews of Shelter From The Storm by Michael Mewshaw

Shelter From The Storm

by Michael Mewshaw

Shelter From The Storm
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2003, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 288 pages

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Book Summary

A beautifully made thriller set in Central Asia that evokes a world of subterfuge, potential chaos and nuance hovering just this side of disbelief.

Zack McClintock, an over-the-hill "security consultant," knows he isn't up to traveling to Central Asia in search of his kidnapped son-in-law. A group claiming to be Islamic fundamentalists has first demanded a million-dollar ransom, then suddenly offered to free the son-in-law if a deranged and feral local child, fallen into the hands of an American woman, is flown to the United States. Zack finds himself in a country teetering on the edge of anarchy, wracked by tribal and sectarian violence, but even he is surprised by how quickly things come apart. Threatened on all sides by deceit, betrayal, and random violence, Zack discovers that the greatest jeopardy originates in the human heart as he tries to understand whether he's being confronted with a last chance at salvation or just another enormous loss.

Shelter from the Storm is storytelling at its best. The timely plot, taut writing, and powerful characters make it a rare achievement.

1

The wolf boy, the wild child, the strange feral creature appeared early one spring as the iced-over streams started to crack and the blown snow on the steppes was melting. In that place whose history, in its most objective rendering, read like a conflation of myth, magic and madness, and where recent events were so turbulent and improbable that any future, or no future, seemed possible, each sign was seen as an omen of potential catastrophe.

The first villagers to spot him kept their distance and watched warily. These were mountain people. They lived with their livestock in huts--dank, cave-like and carved out of rock. Having just wakened from what amounted to months of winter hibernation, they imagined the boy to be a dream-memory or a lingering shade from the spirit world. It was the custom of their clan to butcher animals on feast days and dress the bloody carcasses in human clothing. Then they wrapped themselves in animal hides and cantered about disguised as beasts. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In what ways does the setting of a chaotic former Soviet republic, "a 'shatter zone' of anarchic cultures," add to the atmosphere of suspense in the novel? What role does the setting itself - its landscape, history, and cultures - play in the story?

  2. The first villagers who see the wolf-boy imagine him to be "a dream memory or a lingering shade from the spirit world." Later, Tomas tells Zack that "Dr. Medvedev thinks he's retarded and belongs in an asylum. The Mullah thinks he's Satan in human form." Tomas himself suggests that the boy is a victim of secret Russian chemical experiments, while Kathryn believes he was raised by wolves. How would you explain the wolf-boy?

  3. In considering his reasons for coming to Central Asia, Zack ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Daily News

....a killing read about mission and rescue.

San Francisco Chronicle

A beautifully made thriller set in Central Asia, Shelter From The Storm deserves at least as much attention as the wonderful espionage fiction of Alan Furst or Robert Littell. . . Like the works of Graham Greene, [Mewshaw's] books evoke a world of subterfuge, potential chaos and nuance hovering just this side of disbelief . . . The plot is sharp and Mewshaw's control over the material is masterly.

Publishers Weekly

A timely, stylish thriller . . .Mewshaw plumbs both the tragic and comically absurd elements of post-Soviet Central Asian life.

Library Journal

The action kicks into high gear and speeds through several hairpin curves to its end . . . This is the sort of intelligent and morally ambitious thriller--like those of Craig Nova or Paul Watkins--that offers a welcome change from typical fare.

Reader Reviews

Sam Meyers

4/5
An intense, "real" book.

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