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Susan Ciancio reviews The Shadows of Agent J: A Compendium of Cliff-Hanger Vignettes of a Timeless, Renaissance G-Man, a short story collection with Catholic themes.

“Something is going to happen. ... Something wonderful.” These anticipatory words, spoken by different characters in both awe and wonder, draw you into the world of Agent J and Natasha, partners in a super-secret government agency tasked with protecting the world.   

The Shadows of Agent J: A Compendium of Cliff-Hanger Vignettes of a Timeless, Renaissance G-Man, the first in a series by author Daniel Placiszewski-Plazek, opens the door to an entirely new world of short stories. This compilation of vignettes follows Agent J not only through adventures but through leaps in time, sending readers on their own adventure filled with excitement, battles, amusing and slightly outrageous scenarios, and even heartwarming moments. And that’s just at first glance. Once you begin reading, you will see that this book is so much more than a collection of stories; it’s a window into the struggle between good and evil. With Catholic themes throughout and a perplexing mystery behind why the characters see MCMXLIII and other Roman numerals in the sky, the book guides readers along a spiritual journey unlike any other you will find in a fiction book. 

As you learn more about Agent J, you will find that he was brought up Catholic and that he has fallen away from the faith. But as so often happens, God uses events to nudge us back to Him. And throughout more than 60 stories, the reader is gifted with a front-row seat to J’s spiritual transformation—one that may resonate with many of us.   

These stories—fraught with scientific and historical facts as well as copious amounts of adjectives—will leave you hanging and sometimes even worrying about the well-being of our beloved protagonist. But each one offers additional information about both Agent J and Natasha, as we see them in various scenarios and even different centuries. Each story takes you one step closer to understanding the mystery woven throughout.  

But the fun doesn’t stop at the end of each vignette. Though the book is filled with factual scientific and historical information, the author has thrown in a twist. He intentionally inserted factual errors that he challenged the reader to find. It’s just one more quirky and entertaining aspect of the Agent J universe.  

Because I edited this book, I know it well, and I can honestly say that I loved it more and more each time I read it. I became vested in the story, and I grew to feel true affection for Agent J and Natasha.  

I asked Daniel whom he imagined as the audience for his book, and he jokingly replied, “I believe the answer is either the entire world population of 8,213,733,694 or nobody at all, but it could be somewhere in between.” 

He then became serious and said, “I believe authentic expressions of one’s faith are expressed best in subtle ways and sometimes even in subconscious suggestions. And that is the construction of the continuing story of Agent J. The faith in the one true Apostolic Catholic Church is quietly spread in a mysterious form throughout the evolving stories. My hope is that this anthology of peculiar, humorous, confusing, and hopefully entertaining short vignettes will light a small spark of curiosity in the heavenly wonders firmly established in the Church founded by Jesus Christ.” 

Indeed, tidbits of our faith are spread mysteriously in each story, as woven throughout are prayers, crying statues, singing bricks, Marian clouds, the proliferation of MCMXLIII, and so much more. Just as in life, where we encounter the constant struggle of good versus evil, each vignette illustrates the timeless battle of good guys versus bad—and the good guys always win.  

Or do they? 

You will root for Agent J and Natasha. You will hope and pray for their safety. You will excitedly turn page after page in anticipation of what comes next and which clue you can find regarding the mystery of the Roman numerals. And you cannot help but see the beauty and wonder of the Catholic faith as you read The Shadows of Agent J. 

What is going to happen, and what is so wonderful? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: Agent J and Natasha will get to the bottom of it. And hopefully you will be there to watch the story unfold.  



Copyright 2024 Susan Ciancio
Images: Canva