“The Shadow of the Mole” by Bob Van Laerhoven

The Shadow of the Mole

Bob Van Laerhoven
Next Chapter (2022)
ISBN: 979-8412767628
Reviewed by Leigh Kimberly Zoby for Reader Views 01/2023

“The Shadow of the Mole” is a historical fiction psychological thriller set within the trenches of warfare and a man’s unsettled mind. 1916 in the Argonne woods region of Fille Morte, members of The 13th French Infantry must construct tunnels underneath German strongholds of the battle zone. While excavating the tunnels deemed Satan’s Lair, the grim discovery of a catatonic man found in the icy mud-filled rubble causes alarm within the ranks. Uncertain whether this stranger is a threat, deserter, or mole, Dr. Michel Denis is assigned to assess the man’s condition. 

Dr. Michel Denis, feeling less than adequate due to the recent loss of limb, must put his issues aside to help piece together clues to help the stranger. Shellshocked and suffering from memory loss, the Mole appears to be in a constant state of a sleepwalker. Once able to speak, the Mole believes he is dead, having suffered a wound to his heart despite no signs of trauma. It is only through journal entries the reader begins to see glimmers of the nightmares the mole suffers. The lines of truth become blurry within the stories journaled. Dr. Denis has become obsessed with the Mole, vowing to discover what is real or illusion. 

Author Bob Van Laerhoven masterfully weaves a story within a story that taunts the reader until the final sentence. “The Shadow of the Mole” is action-packed and fast-paced but requires attention to detail. The reader is entering the mind of someone deeply affected by the traumas of war, unable to grasp reality, creating disturbing fairytales in their head. The stories unravel and intertwine through flashbacks, personal letters, journal entries, songs, poetry, and a psychiatrist’s diary. These documents seem to be written by someone well-educated yet tormented. They are beautiful, but also full of the ominous feeling of being trapped in madness. 

“The Shadow of the Mole” is powerfully irresistible and thought-provoking. The writing style is eloquent, full of eerieness, and symbolism that requires the reader to slow down and absorb what they have witnessed unfold. I was moved when Laerhoven defined war as…”an all-consuming and putrefying disease in itself, a monster devouring its young, gangrene of the mind.” The scene setting and character development are remarkable. I could almost feel the fear as the infantry was bombed while retreating. The journal entries are another dark world to unravel in the search for sanity. 

I highly recommend “The Shadow of the Mole” to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, the psychology of warfare, or twisted tales that will keep you thinking long after the last page read. 

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