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Martial Arts: Book Review

Kage - The Shadow

A Conner Burke Martial Arts Thriller

by John Donohue

Soft cover, 287 Pages, $12.95

Available in the Estore

Reviewed by Christopher Caile

This is the fourth in the Conner Burke martial arts thriller series written by John Donohue.  Other books include Sensei, Deshi and Tengu. In many ways I like this book the best.

Conner Burke, a martial arts expert and professor of Asian Studies, is the senior student of the Yamashita, a teacher of traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or kenjutsu. The book begins with a trip by Burke to Arizona as a panel member at a writers convention. Burke's advice on realistic depiction of violence isn't well received.

But the trip is not in vein.  The owner of the resort where Burke is staying,
Lori Westmann, hires Burke as a expert and historian on martial arts.  Lori is convinced that her father's recent death, which had been ruled accidental by the authorities, was actually an assassination. She believes that her father was killed in response to his revelations of a secret and esoteric martial arts group centered in Hokkaido, Japan. Burke is to study her fathers writings and journals to verify his tales, proof of which, if found, would help verify her theory. Burke's research, however, inadvertently uncovers information that pulls him to the middle of a deadly vortex that is beyond his ability to control.

Burke finds himself enmeshed within a much bigger international struggle -- between boarder smugglers, deadly Mexican Cartels and the US authorities, Burke himself being marked for death.  The action both in New York and Arizona also pulls in others -- his brother and his brother's former partner, both retired cops, his teacher, his girl friend as well boarder authorities and secret US operatives -- as Burke gets further caught up within whirling conflict much bigger than himself.  

In this thriller headline news meets martial arts,  mixing plausible current events with the world of traditional martial arts training. Burke fights for his life, action that includes both close range combat survival techniques and internal turmoil as he is forced to examine the very ethos and philosophy of  his Samurai art. Realistic action is embedded within a real, tightly scripted story written by an author who knows his subject as both a scholar and seasoned practitioner of several martial arts.

Once I began reading, I was caught, and I kept reading until I finished the book. I think it is one of Donohue's best novels and highly recommend it to both the general reader as well as those who enjoy martial arts related novels.

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