A novelist known for hard-boiled suspense laced with dark humor conjures a vision of a frightening future, but isn’t quite sure where to take it.
Though his earlier tales of the seamy Los Angeles underbelly suggested an update of Raymond Chandler, Ferrigno (The Wake-up, 2004, etc.) makes a bold imaginative leap, setting his latest in the year 2042, amid the Islamic States of America. As a backdrop, a series of terrorist bombings have leveled New York, Washington and Mecca. After a confession by Israeli extremists, the country has shifted even farther toward cultural conservatism, as popularly embodied by a Muslim moral majority, with the Bible Belt (now comparatively liberal) seceding. Within a society in which moderates and zealots, Muslims and Christians, somehow sustain an uneasy peace, freethinking academic historian Sarah Dougan and her lover, Rakkim Epps, a former member of an elite Muslim warrior cadre, discover that what has become known as the Zionist Betrayal was in fact a very different sort of conspiracy. Is Allah on the side of the Islamic States, or is he on the side of the truth? A novelist such as Lee Child or David Lindsey might have found greater psychological and thematic depths within such a scenario, but Ferrigno too often settles for the sensationalism of extreme violence (eyeballs take a particular squishing within these pages) and pulse-pounding sex. Whatever social critique he has introduced quickly gives way to a formulaic thriller, with the obligatory doppelgänger—only someone as well trained as Rakkim has a chance to stop Rakkim—the obligatory American playgrounds (Super Bowl, Vegas, Disneyland, the Oscars) and the obligatory suspicions of duplicity. By the end, Ferrigno hasn’t said nearly as much as he could about the country in which we live or the country it might become.
Instead of exploring the dynamics of holy wars and culture wars, Ferrigno reduces such provocative topics to pulp.