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THE HEART OF THE ASSASSIN by Robert Ferrigno

THE HEART OF THE ASSASSIN

By Robert Ferrigno

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-3767-0
Publisher: Scribner

Ferrigno wraps up a dystopian trilogy set 30-odd years in the future.

As in Prayers for the Assassin (2006) and Sins of the Assassin (2007), North America is a battleground for multiple theocracies. Most of the Northeast has been obliterated in terrorist attacks, Seattle is capital of a moderate Muslim nation, San Francisco is an Islamic fundamentalist stronghold renamed New Fallujah, the South is a Christian outpost and Mexico has been renamed Aztlán in honor of its Aztec heritage. The author has plenty of loose ends to tie up, but the focus remains on Rakkim Epps, a one-time Muslim fundamentalist warrior eager to settle down with wife Sarah and son Michael. But thanks to some research by Sarah, a scholar of American culture, he heads to a wrecked and heavily irradiated Washington, D.C., to recover a rumored piece of the true cross that might help broker a reunification of the Muslim and Christian states. How so? Well, it’s complicated, and the explanation only intermittently transcends standard speculative-thriller plotting. In a throng of undistinguished imams, legislators, thugs and other stock characters, the most engaging personalities are Malcolm Crews, a celebrity Christian holy roller leveraged by Islamic leader the Old One for his own purposes, and the Old One’s daughter Baby, a temptress who’s working her own complicated scheme involving both dad and Rakkim. The action scenes have plenty of gore and grit, particularly any moment involving expert enforcer Lester Gravenholtz and Graceland, which seriocomically propels the story toward its climax. But Ferrigno is so preoccupied with pacing and plotting (both skillfully done, granted) that he spends little time engaging with the religious differences that separate the regions he invents, and he offers hardly any commentary on the relationship between church and state that this series would seem to demand. He blows the opportunity for smartly imagined commentary on geopolitics in favor of a mildly entertaining game of Risk.

Pulpy and sometimes oppressively busy.