Here are the ones I’ve read, listed in order of publication. All are written by Walter B. Gibson except The Golden Vulture, which was written by Lester Dent and then revised by Gibson.
- The Living Shadow, March 1931
- Gangdom’s Doom, December 1931
- The Black Hush, 1 August 1933
- Six Men of Evil, 15 February 1933
- The Ghost of the Manor, 15 June 1933
- The Grove of Doom, 1 September 1933
- Road of Crime, 1 October 1933
- The Black Falcon, 1 February 1934
- The Cobra, 1 April 1934
- Chain of Death, 15 July 1934
- Atoms of Death, 15 July 1935
- The London Crimes, 15 September 1935
- Castle of Doom, 15 January 1935
- The Voodoo Master, 1 March 1936
- The Third Shadow, 15 March 1936
- The Salamanders, 1 April 1936
- The Shadow Unmasks, 1 August 1937
- The Golden Vulture, 15 July 1938
- The Golden Master, 15 September 1939
- The Wasp, 1 October 1940
- The Thunder King 15 June 1941
- Garden of Death, 1 October 1941
- The Devil Monsters, 1 February 1943
- The Mask of Mephisto, July 1945
Looking over these novels, I would pick The Grove of Doom and The Black Hush as my favorites. The Grove of Doom is a superb showcase for Gibson’s medley of sinister pulp adventure with the classical, Gothic-toned mystery. The murder mystery is a genuine one, and Gibson weaves it into exotic outrageousness to create a compulsively readable pulp classic. The Black Hush contains exotic science-fiction elements and heavy action that makes for a breathless adventure. The finale is the best I’ve read in a Shadow novel.
Coming in close behind these two classics are The Black Falcon, The Cobra, Six Men of Evil, and The Third Shadow. I enjoyed The Golden Master, but I think this first appearance of Shiwan Khan is a touch overrated. The Voodoo Master deserves praise for the innovative ending where the Shadow pulls one of his most astonishing tricks. The Golden Vulture has the Lester Dent “high adventure” feel and is an interesting variation on the formula. The Shadow Unmasks is a must-read because of its contribution to the history of the character, but the adventure itself never grabbed me.
Road of Crime is an odd one, unlike almost any other Shadow novel because of its character-drama focus and small scale, but it’s worth reading after having a few of the classics already put away. The Ghost of the Manor is also small in scale, but deals in the world of the classic British murder mystery with the Shadow's special touch to it.
The weakest of the bunch is The Mask of Mephisto, which came late in the run and is tired, suspense-free, and almost a routine murder mystery. Unfortunately, it was also the first Shadow novel I ever read, ensuring that I would avoid picking up another one for a few of years. At the time, it was one of the only Shadow novels I could get my hands on because my local library had a copy of it from a 1970s hardcover reprint for the Doubleday Crime Club. Such a shame.
The runners-up for poorest are The Devil Monsters, The Wasp, and Garden of Death. The first goes off-beat in the wrong way, and is already boring as can be before it goes wrong. The second trots out a new super-villain who fails to make much of an impression; he’s no Shiwan Khan or Radil Mocquino. The last shows the series losing steam, although still capable of creative ideas. The Thunder King also lags in the running in that it feels like a standard pulp adventure, but at least it never bores.
And what about The Living Shadow, the very first novel? It’s intriguing for the way Gibson starts finding his way with his mysterious hero, and the Shadow is deeply mysterious here and actually a supporting character. But Gibson still didn’t have a handle on the concept, and it would take him a span to get the Shadow into his groove.