Cascade - Peter Harper - Book Cover
Detective, Mystery & Thriller

Cascade – Peter Harper

Shani Bălcescu’s whole world turns upside down when she finds out about her Séroulése ancestry, she has no idea of the dangers she is about to encounter


Shani Bălcescu is a fragile young woman struggling with depression issues, who has just been accepted as a Fellow of St. Aquinas Collge, Oxford. As excited as she is to start working on her PhD, she is afraid to leave the house she lived in with her friends and fellow students. Before she has even a chance to settle down in St. Aquinas, a phone call turns her world upside down: her adopted father (or “grandfather” considering their age difference), Andrei, has had a heart attack and she needs to go to him, to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, right away. With his last breath, he whispers “Child, you must forgive me. Zinsa … Séroulé. All gone.” What she needs to forgive him for will not be said by him anymore.


Soon after hearing those intriguing words, Andrei is gone too and Shani is devastated. The only family she had, has died, leaving her with such puzzling words, implying a hidden truth about her family heritage. All her life, she has felt lonely without her parents of whom she only knows that they died due to a car accident. Being bereft of her parents and without a single memory of them to cherish, has added to the depression Shani has been struggling with for all her life. Now Andrei’s death and his mentioning of Séroulé make her want to investigate as she only knows that Andrei had worked as an anthropologist in Africa and brought her mother as a child, a victim of war, home with him. When Shani finds a shocking video of her parent’s violent death in the streets of the Romanian city of Timișoara she knows she has to go there to find whether there is a grave – a place her parents’ bodies are buried, “something tangible after all these years.

In Timișoara, Shani finds her parents’ burial place and for the first time in her life, she feels a connection to her family. Her parents are Luca and Zinsa Bălcescu and, slowly, Andrei’s words begin to make sense. Zinsa is the little girl Andrei saved, the only surviving member of the Dangbo family, the presidential family of  Séroulé. The coup leader who murdered the Dangbos years ago, is the current president (dictator) of Séroulé, General Odeion Kuetey. Before she knows it, Shani is in Paris visiting Nicholas, a journalist who had written an insightful article about the coup and her Séroulése family. Her contact with Nicolas opens up a whole new world for Shani where exist rebels and freedom fighters, as well as a murderous and sadistic General who is now aware of her existence .. her life will never be the same. Nicholas tells Shani just why the General is out to get her – and why that makes her a legend in the eyes of the rebels, fighting against the dictatorial regime.

Now she knows more about her family, her parents and her Séroulése ancestry, Shani feels very close to her African family and roots which make it impossible, in her eyes, to walk away. If Shani had known from the start how dangerous the search into her own background would be, would she have backed off? Then again, the suffering of the Séroulese population at the hands of the sadistic General Kuety and his regime: if anyone could help that cause, would they not take that chance? When lives are threatened and everyone around Shani wants something from her, who can she trust? Shani feels lost but then, something terrible happens, and she has no choice, she is drawn in. Forced to act, Shani feels her life rapidly spinning out of control. With many lives at risk, she has to make a decision that will have unimaginable consequences….

My Thoughts

Wow! Peter Harper has woven an intricate plot, taking us from the sophisticated environment of Oxford to Eastern Europe and the dangerous surroundings of Western Africa. Shani is a lovely protagonist who always has been insecure about herself due to not knowing where she belongs. Is that why she has anxiety issues? Finding her parents’ resting place gives her a strength she never knew she possessed. Although this change in character was a bit sudden, I did like how the author changed his protagonist and loved her commitment and dedication. To what or who? We will leave that for now! I totally fell in love with Nicholas, by the way. Cascade is a fast-paced action-packed thriller. If anything, it makes us aware how thin the layer of civilization is, how power is sought by everyone and how that same power wields corruption. It is a devastating story of brutality and loss, of finding your place in the world and wanting to belong somewhere and, ultimately, of the struggle for freedom and liberty.

About the Author 

Peter Harper Author Image

In his own words, author Peter Harper is an “armchair dissident” who decided to just go ahead and write a thriller. His motivation is the gift of life. If he could describe his thriller Cascade in one sentence, it would be “globalisation is fine, providing it is 100% organic, as opposed to 100% duplicitous.”

Book Info

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Paperback  484 pages
 Publisher  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (30 Nov. 2016)
 ISBN  978-1540460264
 eBook  3712 KB (Peter Harper, 28 Nov. 2016)
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