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The Shadow Of The Mole - 2022


 The Shadow Of The Mole is a finalist in the Best Thrillers Award 2022 in the category "Historical Fiction" on


1916, Bois de Bolante, France. The battles in the trenches are raging fiercer than ever. In a deserted mineshaft, French sappeurs discover an unconscious man, and nickname him The Mole.

Claiming he has lost his memory, The Mole is convinced that he's dead, and that an Other has taken his place. The military brass considers him a deserter, but front physician and psychiatrist-in-training Michel Denis suspects that his patient's odd behavior is stemming from shellshock, and tries to save him from the firing squad.

The mystery deepens when The Mole begins to write a story in écriture automatique that takes place in Vienna, with Dr. Josef Breuer, Freud’s teacher, in the leading role. Traumatized by the recent loss of an arm, Denis becomes obsessed with him, and is prepared to do everything he can to unravel the patient's secret. 

Set against the staggering backdrop of the First World War, The Shadow Of The Mole is a thrilling tableau of loss, frustration, anger, madness, secrets and budding love. The most urgent question in this extraordinary story is: when, how, and why reality shifts into delusion?





The Shadow Of The Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven is an intense and powerful blend of mystery and history(…)The novel has dramatic depths that it displays effectively. After all, war can change any man. You can't help but feel anxious to learn The Mole's true identity (…)Bob Van Laerhoven never misses the opportunity to flesh out his characters, to give you insight as to who they are. Psychology as a discipline plays an important part in the plot and Laerhoven effectively embeds it in your consciousness through appropriate references. The Shadow of the Mole is as enigmatic as it is powerful. It is written with skill in the way it weaves scientific analysis with the inner lives of its characters. It's a must-read for anyone who enjoys a cerebral story with a great blend of mystery, history, and psychoanalysis." Five Stars

Vincent Dublado – Readers’ Favorite -

Bob Van Laerhoven's story of intrigue, amnesia, and discovery is compelling on many levels. History buffs interested in World War I will find the novel steeped in military references that chart the progress and politics of the war. Those interested in mystery will find the intrigue woven into the tale from the point of discovery to its increasing puzzles about The Mole's real identity and purposes. And readers who choose The Shadow of the Mole for its thriller components will find that action and tension abound in a riveting story packed with satisfying twists and turns. Readers won't expect footnoted references in a fictional presentation, but these are peppered throughout to define non-English phrases or succinctly explore setting and historical reference, even including poems and literary insights that enhance the progression of the story without detracting from it with too much information. The real heart of this story lies in injured physician Michel Denis as he explores not just his patient's identity, but his own disability and reactions to it: "Remember you said you couldn’t live with yourself anymore after your arm had been hacked off ? That’s how you said it: hacked off. And here’s what I thought, if you can’t live with yourself, who is being ‘you’ then?" War changes identity and life trajectories, often forever. Its participants never emerge unscathed. The psychic and physical traumas experienced in battle resonate throughout time and place, stretching beyond the battlefield to affect the hearts and minds of anyone with any connection to the war. In this case, it's the world. In this case, it's Van Laerhoven's attention to capturing the details of desperation and revelation that powers The Shadow of the Mole, compelling it to become something more than any of its characters foresaw. The exquisite balance between reality, insanity, and the emotional twists and turns of love and war create an especially gripping story that's thoroughly unpredictable in its evolution and unique in its focus. Libraries strong in thrillers, military fiction, psychological inspections of reality and fallacy, and historical mystery will find that all these elements (and more) will attract a wide audience. 

Senior Reviewer Diane Donovan: - September issue 2022 of The Midwest BookReview  

 This very intriguing novel has been my first encounter with this author, a Flemish Lion from the land of Belgium, and I have to say that it certainly has been a pleasant experience. (…)Storytelling is of a very good quality, the story is very well structured and executed, and the characters involved come really alive in this tale about sub(conscious) thinking and making decisions. (…)It’s a wonderful story about love. loss, anger and secrets that are keeping people's inner feelings in turmoil, so much so that it can turn people's minds from clear reality towards troubled delusions when it comes to their actions and reactions towards life.All in all, it’s a very clever and intriguing novel where deception and reality go hand in hand, and where people's minds are tested to their limits right till the end, especially when it comes to not identifying reality and starting to believe in imaginative delusions.Very much recommended, for this is a very interesting and exciting read, and that's why I like to call this book: "A Captivating Shadow's Secrets"!

Clemens A. Schoonderwoert -

 "The Shadow Of The Mole" is exceptionally well penned by Bob Van Laerhoven. This book has many layers, like a man trying to escape the truth, frustration, anguish, urge for death and life, guilt. All of this set up during WW1. (….) I would like readers to read for themselves and enjoy this prodigious novel . This book definitely needs to be nominated for Nobel prize laureate awards.

Amazon customer 001- Amazon.India -

This novel is interesting, it has depth in its many layers that construct the story. Sometimes it felt disjointed and I wondered how all the elements would come together, but that’s the intriguing part. They do come together, in a surprising way. That, I suppose is what makes it different in structure to others. (…)The writing is sharp and to the point, we move from one moment to the next with The Moles stories in-between. The depictions of the war as the backdrop to the story are haunting and felt very real. In parts of this story you could imagine yourself there and pondered just how your own mind would react.The story is definitely a thriller, with the mystery of who the Mole is, interlaced with the psychoanalysis from his physicians. Add in the stories The Mole writes with the backdrop of war and you’ve got one interesting story that will leave you pondering the why/ how war affects ones mind.

Hayley’s Book Room:

The story is very well written and immersive, there is no sugarcoating on the descriptions of war and how it can mess up perfectly normal and regular individuals to the point one might start thinking there is an other in them, moving them around. There is a lot of despair as one would expect from a war tale, but there is also a spark of never ending hope, for it is the very thing that keeps people sane in such situations. There is drama, there is gossip, there is murder and even ghosts plaguing our protagonists’ psyche’s. I liked it a lot! I would definitely pick up more titles from this author!

Ellianie A. Guzmán Gálvez – Amazon Mexico -

The multiple points of view, timeframes, and scenes are not confusing and actually enhance the surreal feelings of the prose and intent to get a strong message across. There is also the stark portrayal of war that is at once horrifying, sad, and yet does not extinguish hope. (….)The outer story analyses and supports the inner story: it is a trieste on the mysteries of the psyche and of choices and results, and most importantly justifications. This book was years in the making, yet the correlations with the situation in the Ukraine are undeniable.(…) all of the war scenes, were done by a master.
My favorite line: "The curtain of the stage has been ripped...He's on wings between two worlds and sees other things than I." Please read the book to understand the beauty behind this.....
Hussong’s Cantina/ Lou Kemp  – -
Goodreads -

The ending was amazing and really ties up the story. Bob's books are about the only reads where I ENJOY the feeling of being confused(I mean this in the very best sense!) And its because I know it will all tie in. It really keeps me wanting to read more. (…)An amazing book which focuses heavily on the treatment of people with shell shock during the time of WW1, and how they were viewed. Once again, a fantastic, gritty tale, of mystery, love and even hate. A great change to many war fiction books I have read.

Arianne- talkingteacupblog and goodreads :

The narrator does an amazing job. I really enjoy Historical fiction. I must say I wasn’t too sure what I was listening to. But I am glad that I continued on listening. What a crazy and interesting read! I have to say towards the ending this audio book made a turn I didn’t foresee. (…)I highly recommend this book.

Amanda -

What a remarkably unique story in The Shadow of the Mole by Bob van Laerhoven. (…)A definite attention grabber, so much I couldn't put it down. Both thrilling and intriguing, all the way to the end. Masterfully written!

Amys Bookshelf Reviews -  Goodreads :

THE SHADOW OF THE MOLE by Bob Van Laerhoven is a dark and intriguing historical fiction/mystery set in France during WWI. (…)I feel this is more literary fiction with the continual psychiatric analysis of The Mole, his writing, and Michel’s thoughts on the self. That is not a negative criticism, just a heads up to readers who are looking for more of a genre style historical mystery. The settings are descriptive and the emotions palpable in both the story as told by Michel in present day and The Mole’s writing of his life. An interesting read. 

Avonna loves genres:

(…)I was surprised to see that this holds a story within a story, and I loved this addition. It's done in a unique way, I feel, as it's not just the story being written to ease the mind of a tortured, amnesiac patient. It's also a story of that same patients past, coming out and forcing his acknowledgement. So you not only have a dual timeline, but also a dual perspective. It's beautifully written and very well done. (…)I highly recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and books that deal with memory loss. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Be ready when picking this up as it's not a quick and easy read. It's one that will have you wrapped up and lost in the tortured mind of "The Mole".

Angel (Bookn.All.Night)’s review – Goodreads

Shadow of the Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven is another exciting novel by a skilled writer. (…) was not entirely sure how I was going to like this novel, I usually avoid stories involving real wars, as I are a bit on the sensitive side, however, having read a book by Bob Van Laerhoven I decided I would do myself a discredit if I did not read it. And even more luckily, they offered me an audiobook. This allowed me to not only enjoy the story but also experience and amazing narrator which honestly helped me understand many of the French words this book has, and it has a lot of them, on a level that I probably would not have grasped if I was just reading it myself.The Shadow of the Mole is a must read, or listen, for anyone looking for an exciting war time thriller.

Tawny Molina – Books and Games -

The people observing an amnesiac may be so obsessed with putting together that puzzle that their identity is caught up with the one who has amnesia. They may put the amnesiac into an identity that they create and has nothing to do with the reality of who that person really was. The amnesiac may never get their real identity and memory back and are left with what they are told, leaving them a complete stranger to themselves. That concept is explored in Bob Van Laerhoven's Shadow of the Mole, an absorbing dark psychological mystery about a World War I era patient with amnesia and the obsessive nature of his doctor to find out who he really is.(…)  Like in many books that feature a story within a story, it is the past story, in this case Alain's, that is is the most interesting, gripping, and unforgettable. What is rather interesting about The Mole's writings is the intentional literariness of it (…)
Perhaps since the Mole has amnesia, the mysterious Romanys in his story exist because he hallucinated them or they reflected the gaps in his memory. They may be more than a plot device. They may just be the parts that the Mole doesn't remember or doesn't want to remember. They may represent the darker forgotten parts of the Mole's mind that he chooses to suppress. (…)Reading this story actually works its way into Denis' mind as well. He is living in a world torn apart by War. Discovering The Mole's identity and getting to the truth of Alain's story becomes more important to him than anything or anyone else. He develops a relationship with a woman that fizzles because of his obsession. He makes questionable decisions that puts his career in jeopardy. He wants to find sense in a world that is losing its grip on reality and sends young men around the world to fight other young men.

Julie Porter – Bookworm Reviews - and Goodreads -

 Bob van Laerhoven is a quite exceptional novelist. And this shocking, moving and profoundly intriguing book, newly translated into English, may be his best work yet. (…)The wartime story is compelling, and Bob van Laerhoven populates it with solid people whose uniqueness lingers in the mind. A nurse who loves Denis but cannot get close to him. A prostitute. Soldiers. A senior doctor. Patients in the psychiatric hospital out of the battle line. All of them have stories that are told or hinted at and reach back into time and forward into the mind of the reader. (…)Woven into this story, breaking in and out of it like dreams when waking, there is also the story being written by The Mole. A fantasy, and adventure, an account historic meetings in nineteenth century Vienna. A story about obsession, betrayal, subterfuge, psychoanalysis, secrets.(…) This is a novel with a huge depth and breadth. Exquisitely written by a master story teller, and entirely unforgettable.

Carly Rheilan -  Goodreads-

 This is such an interesting story. (…)the WWI backdrop was refreshing. I usually read WWII historical fiction and this one felt different and it was great. I enjoyed the psychology aspects dealing with shell shock (today known as PTSD) which is so much different from dealing with mental health today. This books allows us to see the differences between mental healthcare today and back then.

Jess – dapper.reads’ review - 

This is likely the most “cerebral” read for me this year and also the most challenging for me to review. (…)The plot is told from multiple perspectives and time frames(…)As the story unfurls, the histories of each character are skillfully detailed in flashbacks that I initially found jarring, but later I grew to appreciate. The flashbacks are structured in that manner with purpose and the prose was excellent. (…)The author’s European sensibility is very pronounced in this work, which I find intriguing because it is so foreign to my own different generational and American experience. I think that this book is not for the casual reader, but I would highly recommend it to a more highly educated or well-read audience in search of solid historical fiction with a supernatural twist.

Jerry’s review – Goodreads -

Reality and the inventions of the mind intertwine in many levels in The Shadow of the Mole.(…) The Shadow of the Mole is a complex, challenging, demanding book, delving into the labyrinth of the human mind, of questions of reality and fantasy, of cruelty intentional and random, of free will and fate, of how we interpret our world through the apparent duality of science and mythos. The writing is evocative; the imagery sometimes horrifying, and the ending chilling. A book that will stay with me for a long time, for the quality of its writing and because it made me think.

Writer Marian Thorpe – – Goodreads – -

The absolutely profound The Shadow Of The Mole by exemplary someday Nobel Prize Laureate winner Bob Van Laerhoven is a genre defying story within a story that will leave you emotionally drained and in awe of this author. (…)Narrator Martyn Swain weaves through this modern day classic with grace and subtlety as the author's words paints a real picture of the hubris of humans to fight wars believing others' lives are worth the loss and the lasting effects to the mind are worth the price

Linda McCutcheon – – Goodreads

A very intriguing premise and a well-executed plot. Although I don't normally read war-time novels I thought this one was very compelling and I enjoyed it because the mystery took centre stage so it's more a thriller than an historical fiction book. The dual timeline was well done, and I enjoyed both subplots; the diary was so well written, with vivid descriptions and fascinating theories to support the Mole's belief that he is dead and inhabited by another being.

Evelina – My MidnightBooks -

This book perfectly captures the grisly horrors of the war and what life was like in the trenches. The lead characters have been on this long conveyor belt of treating and attempting to treat the wounded and the dying for so long that they have become completely desensitised to the nature of war and the value of human life. We see through several characters eyes how the wounded (both mentally and physically) were viewed with a dehumanising, cold contempt which I found particularly jarring. One thing I really enjoyed about the book was how deeply it examined the human psyche, blurring the lines between what was real and projected, and between reality and delusion. The stories of the different characters were so closely aligned that they seemed to melt into each other at certain points, with different characters adding their own interpretations leaving the actual events that occurred open ended to the reader.This is the second book I have read by this author, and his wonderfully captivating writing style along with solidly visual backdrops are a pleasure to read. Although this was predominately set in the war, there were supernatural elements to the story as well as an intriguing noire style series of events leading up to the beginning of WW1. 

Shamelessmoodr eader -

 The most intriguing book I've read in years.I'm blown away by this. Set in France in the First World War and in Vienna at the end of the previous century, it's a moving story with a dual timeline and stories within stories, woven of many threads that wind around one another and tighten to a gordian knot. Terrible realities and terrible fantasies interlock and explode into a riveting conclusion. A breathtaking read that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Dark – and Goodreads -

 Everything is broken in this story.  Through world war I, the old world which figures in some of the Mole’s writing is crumbling  and never to return. The present is an explosion of nightmare. Bob van Laerhoven, who has written as a travel writer from many modern conflict zones, is unflinching in his description of the horrors of this time.   Human beings are being torn apart.  Those who survive will never be quite whole again. Loyalty, morality, aspiration: all are being stretched until they shatter. (…)It is an almost overwhelming read.  It closes but cannot heal the wounds that it uncovers.

The Hard Hat Book Site : – Goodreads

A deeply intriguing and thought provoking novel exploring the early concepts of psychology and the effects of warfare on the human mind.  Equally, the book explores the mind’s ability to close out past memories during times of stress – who is the mole, what is his story and what led up to his being found in the mine?All in all, a very deep and thought provoking book that flowed past and was easy to follow either whilst cooking or running – it took little effort to follow the story line. Wonderfully written, the prose is beautifully constructed and the story was engrossing.  I haven’t read work from this author before but was really drawn to it.  A great read/listen to fans of historical fiction particularly those with an interest in the mental impact of warfare.

ThePursuitOfBookiness  -

Although set in WWI this isn’t what you’d expect from a historical fiction novel, and that really makes it stand out. I’d say it’s almost more psychological thriller in some ways, but no matter what category you drop it in, it’s very well written. The descriptions make it seem like a movie is unfolding before you. A mysterious man with amnesia, the tragedy and horrors of war, and a strange tale that unfolds via automatic writing. The characters had great depth, and the story had plenty of twists and turns as it moved along, keeping you hooked and wanting to read more. Highly recommended for thriller lovers!

Liliyana Shadowlyn- The Faerie Review -

 The Shadow Of The Mole is a wartime historical fiction unlike any I’ve ever read before.(….) I absolutely loved the immersion into WWI-era Europe from this humbling perspective, and as a former university level student of British 20th century wartime history, I didn’t find anything to be distractingly wrong about the events going on around the characters that didn’t otherwise fit the story. (…)Overall I do think the story is very well written and the mystery presented by the character of The Mole is fascinating. If you like wartime historical fiction, you need to give this one a try!

Westveil Publishing -

This story was definitely well written and researched.(…)With the war raging on, there is devastation, destruction and so much more(…) You can really feel the intense times and the sadness that comes with war. This was one incredibly story!

The Shadow of the Mole is a very intriguing story that will hold your attention from beginning to end. It will keep you hanging on trying to figure out all its secrets as well as who this Mole is and if he is telling the truth or not. (…)The Shadow of the Mole takes you deep into the depths of war with some very descriptive stories. The Shadow of the Mole will keep you wondering what the truth actually is. Is the story real or is it just a figment of someone’s imagination?

To do full justice to this novel would require a very long review (even by my standards, and I do tend to go on a bit), perhaps even a whole book, but I will try and cover a few aspects of it while not spoiling it for readers. To be honest, although there is a mystery (well, mysteries) in this book, there are many interpretations possible, and I have no doubt that reading it will be a complex and unique experience for each and every reader. (…)The novel is a kaleidoscope of narratives, perspectives, opinions, true events, dreams, imagination... and the veil separating all those is very thin indeed. (…)Everything is somehow related, and every piece of the puzzle is necessary for the final reveal (which I won’t talk about). As I had mentioned psychiatry and my interest in it, for those who might feel as intrigued as I am, there are wonderful references to the early figures of the history of psychiatry, important psychiatric texts, famous cases... which I thoroughly enjoyed, but more than anything, I loved the discussions between Michel and Dr. Ferrand, who is a man and a professional with great insight and with ideas well before his time. His comments about the nature of psychiatry and the way it might evolve are both beautiful and thought-provoking. Talking about beautiful, the writing is gorgeous. The different sections are written in very different styles, as it befits the characters doing the writing within the story, but they are all compelling, feel true, and are powerfully descriptive. We might be reading about a bombing, a sexual assault (yes, this book is not a light read, quite the opposite, and readers should be warned about the dark nature of the story), a historical event, or a beautiful landscape, and we feel as if we had a first-row seat, even though sometimes we’d rather be anywhere else. Reading the biography of the author is easy to understand how all he writes rings so true, as he has lived and witnessed extremes of human behaviour most of us will never (luckily) have to confront. (…)The book includes poems, quotes from famous (and not so famous) books, songs... some in French and German, and these are translated in a series of notes easily accessible, even in e-book format. I recommend this book to readers looking for deep meanings, who love historical fiction that goes beyond the usual, who are prepared to face the darker aspects of human behaviour and the human soul, and to anybody looking for a new author who is not afraid to move beyond convention and to make us face some dark truths. A complex and rich book for those who dare to ask some tough questions. I hope it helps you find the answers you were looking for.

Writer-Translator-Psychiatrist Olga Núñez Miret – Goodreads:  -

I love a good period piece, especially one in WWI, and Van Laerhoven does a fantastic job of capturing the nuances of the time and the at home effects of the Great War. This was a fantastic mystery that takes some really unexpected twists and turns! If you love war stories that are more focused on the homefront or tense psychological mysteries, definitely head over there with The Shadow of the Mole!

Joshua Grant - -Goodreads - Amazon


                                                              Q&A - Podcasts

 Interview about "The Shadow of the Mole" in "In Pursuit Of" – Literature and poetry – Ayesha F. Muskaan - India 

Article: A very personal reason for writing "The Shadow Of The Mole" - Author Lounge on ReadersMagnet:


Author George Ebey interviews me in the May 2022 edition of “The Big Thrill” – the magazine of the International Thriller Writers - about “The Shadow Of The Mole”


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