Raj’s debut thriller explores the nature of religion and fanaticism.
After a mountaineering accident sends him sliding down the side of K2—a fall that surely should have killed him—George regains consciousness to find himself being dragged along in a sled. Later, his Balti porters discover him near the base camp and insist that he must have been saved by Dada, a mysterious man who lives on the mountain. George finds a book in his bag that isn’t his own: a handmade tome, written in English, Tamil, Arabic, and Pashto, which includes references to jihadi groups, lists of religious sites around the world, and the names of eight religious leaders recently kidnapped in India. More shockingly, the book’s cover is etched with the word “LACENE”—the name of George’s American wife, who’s also the niece of one of the missing clerics. He quickly arranges for Lacene to meet him in India, and with the help of an American terrorist hunter, they set off to ascertain the secrets of the book and find the missing holy men. They uncover a plot that’s global in its reach and tied to the deep history of religion itself—as well as to mankind’s religious future. Raj’s story is ambitious and genuinely engrossing, mixing heady discussions of theology and etymology with standard thriller elements, such as exotic locales and terrorist conspiracies. Unfortunately, it’s hobbled by stiff prose that shows a poor ear for dialogue: “My dad has been longing to have her with him and would be pleased to grab this chance,” says Lacene. “I had earlier told him that I would be coming to the US with her next week.” Perspectives shift between characters with little consistency or warning, and the pacing often slows to that of an academic lecture. That said, Raj is interested in more than providing a simple beach read. He has larger points to make, and patient readers will be rewarded with his idiosyncratic views on faith.
A thoughtful, if messy, mystery.