The Shadow King – A Voodoo Magic Story

This gripping Voodoo magic novel by John Frank Marshall mixes ancient beliefs of Vodun spirits with the growing menace of biological weapons and the race to develop vaccines.  The narrative moves at a fast pace, blurring the boundaries between dream, hallucination and reality.

The opening

Jason Kramer is a freelance journalist, investigating possible United Nations involvement in a black market for biological weapons and vaccines. He believes that Larry Saunders, reclusive owner of Swiss biogenic company Si, is at the centre of the illegal trade. Kramer’s obsession has already destroyed his marriage and damaged his relationship with his son Michael. He follows Saunders to the mountains of Haiti and is about to capture his evidence on film when he is struck by lightning from a cloudless sky and falls, apparently dead.

Mama Black

When Kramer awakens, he is blind, held captive in a tin shack deep within the forest, tended by an old woman called Mama Black – and something evil is coming. That night, Kramer has a terrifying experience that not only leaves him deeply disturbed, but changed in a way he cannot begin to imagine.

Recovering in hospital, Kramer is visited by Mark Smith, a security expert working for the UN. Smith wants Kramer to help him uncover the vaccine trade but Kramer refuses to help, suspicious of his motives and increasingly defensive. When he finally leaves hospital, Kramer searches for the place where he was held captive, and finds two decomposed bodies. He also finds his camera and with it, drugs and a small glass phial. Before returning to England, he finally meets Saunders, who reveals that he is playing a game; he wants to corrupt Kramer, and threatens his family. Kramer knows that Saunders also wants the phial, and hides it.

Dreams and addiction

Since his accident, Kramer has been experiencing increasingly violent mood swings; the old woman had given him drugs and his growing addiction leads him into a world of hallucinations from which he cannot escape. He feels that he is not alone and on his return to England, is haunted by disturbing dreams. More worrying, his young son has also been having similar nightmares. Kramer disregards the signs and persists with his investigation, travelling to Paris to meet Louise Hilton, an ex-girlfriend working for the UN. She reveals that she is part of the conspiracy and warns him that they are all in danger. She believes that Saunders has developed Blackpox virus, a deadly hybrid of Smallpox and Ebola Fever, but needs the vaccine to bargain with. Shortly after Kramer leaves her apartment she is murdered and so he hides out in a motel before returning to London; he experiences a terrifying hallucination and so finally seeks help from Paula Lopez, a psychiatrist specialising in trauma treatment.

Paula is a central character in the novel: a self-controlled realist who, since the death of her husband lives with her West Indian mother Miranda, an impulsive character who believes in the pre-Christian religions and challenges Paula’s rational world-view. As the story unfolds, Paula has to come to terms with the possibility that Kramer’s apparent mental illness is a true manifestation of evil. She becomes further immersed in her mother’s beliefs when Silas Tombi, an ancient relative, arrives from Haiti, claiming to have been sent by God to fight the growing evil. Silas takes up residence in Paula’s garden, and she has to cope with both Silas’s eccentricities and her Miranda’s unscientific reasoning.

The Sousson-Pannan

Kramer seeks treatment and under hypnosis, the personality of Mama Black reveals itself to Paula and she experiences its power. However, someone of far greater importance is also concealed within Kramer. Paula forces it to say its true name: Sousson-Pannan. Only later does she discover what the Sousson-Pannan is capable of, and its true purpose.

Jason meets Helen Jacobs, an attractive biochemist. He seduces her and they embark on a torrid sexual relationship as she also becomes addicted to the hallucinogenic drugs. Her personality begins to divide as Mama Black’s persona takes control. She analyses the contents of the phial; it contains Blackpox vaccine, and is the key that will bring Kramer to Saunders. The Sousson-Pannan and Mama Black drive Kramer and Helen Jacobs to murder, depravity and worse.

Mark Smith has been following Kramer and visits Paula to warn her about the danger she faces. They are attracted to each other although worlds apart, but Paula cannot accept her feelings for him. Mark and Paula must evade the police in their attempts to stop Kramer, whilst Saunders’ hitman (Wellbeloved) is on their trail, with orders to kill anyone that gets in the way. He murders Jason’s contacts, but before he kills Helen Jacobs, she and Jason are able to corrupt her sister Lydia, infecting her with Mama Black’s spirit.  However, Lydia is very different from Helen. She is a cocaine-sniffing model that makes pornographic films and she and Mama make a dangerous combination.

Mama Black is angry that the Sousson-Pannan is becoming obsessed with Kramer’s son and deciding that Michael must die, kidnaps him. Miranda (Paula’s mother) helps Mark identify where Michael has been taken, and during the rescue, Lydia is apparently killed. Meanwhile, Wellbeloved has been instructed to eliminate Paula and her mother. Mark fights with Wellbeloved in Paula’s house, and she has to kill Wellbeloved to save his life.  

Kramer leaves a policeman dead and an inspector seriously wounded before escaping to Switzerland where Saunders’ biochemical facility is based. Mark and Paula follow, and Paula meets Mark’s business partner, who is expert at breaking security systems and will help them enter the Si building.

The finale

They realise that the Sousson-Pannan is using the virus as a bait to get close to Saunders, close enough to release Blackpox. Somehow, Mark must find a way into the plant and destroy the virus before Kramer gets there, but he is too late, for the the Sousson-Pannan has already entered Saunders’ mind. Kramer is left close to death but something far more powerful than the Sousson-Pannan keeps him alive, and he must seek redemption.

The finale to this voodoo magic story is a battle ground between the basic instincts of the Sousson-Pannan and Mama Black for sex and murder, and the developing love between Paula and Mark, but for Kramer it is also a quest for redemption and the love of his son. The central characters face impossible odds and those that survive will have their most fundamental beliefs torn apart.

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