In this departure from Kerr's Nazi-era Bernie Gunther series (the Berlin Noir trilogy, etc.), Houston-based FBI agent Gil Martins investigates the mysterious deaths of a group of outspoken atheists.
A transplanted Scot, Martins is a lapsed Catholic who curses religion following the execution of a man in whose wrongful conviction he played a part. After his fervently devout wife leaves him over his lack of faith, taking their son, he's even more spiritually adrift—a feeling only intensified by a visit to the massive Izrael Church of Good Men and Good Women near the Johnson Space Center. He's gone there after a female member of the congregation confessed to having killed one of the atheists and jumped to her death—but not before sending Martins a video in which she reveals she was actually a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn writing about Christian nationalism. She joined a cabala-like cult headed by the powerful pastor, who has unusually strong ties to the rabbinical community. The cult, she claims, causes terrible things to happen through the power of prayer. Though there are more convincing fictional portrayals of Houston, Londoner Kerr seems relaxed in this sister city of sorts, and this is one of the more laid-back thrillers in a while. Ultimately, though, that's part of the problem. The story doesn't unfold with enough edge or urgency, and Martins is too bland to make up for that. Plus there's something troubling about Kerr's use of a plot by ex-military types to bomb a local synagogue as a mere warm-up act.
Though an interesting change of scenery for the author, the novel fails to distinguish itself.