In the dark days leading up to the Iraq War, two black marketeers blunder into an ancient conspiracy involving a secret sect of Islamic mystics.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to write pulp fiction, jump in with both feet and let the blood fly. That’s what Bangladesh-based journalist Hossain has done in this kinetic debut novel set in the exploding streets of Baghdad. Our “good guys,” so to speak, are Dagr, a widowed former professor of economics who's turned to crime in the wake of the U.S. invasion, and Kinza, an anarchist berserker who can’t wait for the bad things to come—“When the rage comes, just stay behind him, that’s all,” warns Dagr of Kinza. It wasn't very pretty in the city in those days. “It’s a war,” observes one of Kinza’s corrupt connections. “We kill you, you kill us, who cares? The important thing is to have a sense of humor about it. When we were bombing the Kurds, do you think they were crying like babies?” This bickering duo is trying to get out of the city when they’re hired by a local sheik to track down the shadowy “Lion of Akkad,” a suspected serial killer who turns out to be a centenarian mental patient named Afzal Taha with ties to the Druze, the aforementioned cult. Unfortunately, during a skirmish, Kinza shoots the son of Hassan Salemi, a particularly nasty imam with a thirst for bloodshed. To facilitate their movement through the war-torn city, the two renegades enlist the help of Marine Pvt. Hoffman, a dope-smoking, rule-breaking hooligan who’s supposed to be looking for weapons of mass destruction but really just wants to be in country to “blow shit up.” It’s a marvelous mix of genres, blending the visceral atmosphere of a war movie with the casual nihilism of Catch-22 or the original M.A.S.H. complete with an Indiana Jones–style treasure quest to employ a mystical watch that doesn’t tell time to unleash the ancient power of the Druze before the sect’s ancient Alchemist, the real enemy, catches up with them.
A gonzo adventure novel that shreds the conventional wisdom that pulp can be pigeonholed.