PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN is a brilliantly told story that's part
thriller, part speculative fiction, part allegory, and part
cautionary tale. I can say with some certainty that you will be
hard-pressed to read a better novel this year, if for no other
reason --- and, indeed, there are many reasons --- than the way
that Robert Ferrigno has developed this future history down to its
last and most minute nuance.
Actually, I might have erred in calling this a future history. As I
write this, there are radical Islamic followers rioting in Europe
over the printing of cartoon images of Mohammed. The unrest has
been going on for weeks with no end in sight. Moderates are calling
for calm and the end of civil unrest. The disturbances roil
outward, turning back in on themselves, gaining fresh energy and
causing further combustion. The opening chapter of PRAYERS FOR THE
ASSASSIN (following a short prelude) takes place at the Super Bowl,
where black-robed clerics keep fundamentalist Muslims ---
particularly the women --- with impunity. And when does this book
take place? 2041 --- just thirty-five years from now.
So what has happened? What has come to be known as The Zionist
Betrayal occurs in the year 2015. Ostensibly a terrorist attack on
American cities carried out by renegade members of the Israeli
Mossad, it triggers a second American civil war. When the dust
settles and the smoke clears, most of the United States is a
(somewhat) benevolent Islamic republic that engages in an uneasy
and unofficial war skirmish with the Bible Belt states, which have
broken away and become a separate Christian nation.
PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN views this world primarily through the
alternate eyes of Rakkim Epps, a former Muslim warrior, and Sarah
Dougan, a historian out of favor with the ruling elite. She also
happens to be Rakkim's lover. When Dougan disappears, Rakkim is
dispatched to find her, only to learn that Dougan is running for
her life because of her shocking discovery: the Zionist Betrayal
was not carried out by Israel after all, but was rather the work of
a radical Muslim cleric. That cleric has now called on Darwin, an
assassin without peer, to dispatch Dougan in order to prevent her
from revealing to the world what she has learned. Rakkim, in order
to protect Dougan, must now hunt Darwin, the hunter --- a man who
is every bit Rakkim's equal, and more.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the brilliance of this book.
Ferrigno, always a competent writer, has really hit his stride with
his past three novels, including the Shamus-nominated THE WAKE-UP.
That having been said, PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN is topically and
qualitatively beyond anything he has ever written. This is a
stellar, penultimate work that is suspenseful, thoughtful, and
ultimately chilling. Highest possible recommendation.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2011