Tuesday 12 December 2017

Worth the weight: hunt for jihadist a gripping read

At 700 pages in length and tipping the scales at a little over 2lbs in weight, this debut novel from Australian film producer and screen writer Terry Hayes is massive in many senses, but none more so than its ability to exert a vice-like grip on the reader.

Hayes, wrote and produced Dead Calm, the terrifying film that made a young Nicole Kidman an international star. He also wrote two Mel Gibson hit movies, Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdrome and Payback.

So he knows how to ratchet up tension in a few frames of celluloid, and has effortlessly translated this skill to the written page.

From its grisly beginning at an unusual and challenging murder investigation in a seedy walk-up apartment in New York to its terrifying dénouement, this race-against-time pursuit to save America from a terrorist attack of unimaginable horror takes readers on a hair-raising and minutely researched hunt for a clever and resourceful jihadist who seeks to quite literally destroy America.

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The brilliant adopted son of a wealthy family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US Intelligence, but, disenchanted with the shadowy world of spies and spooks, he abruptly retired.

But before he disappeared into anonymity he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. The book comes back to haunt him when NYPD detective Ben Bradley manages to track him down, and asks him to review a murder.

It is a textbook case – and Pilgrim wrote the book. He soon realises that the ramifications of the murder are enormous. His search for the man who is only known as Saracen takes him on a pell-mell journey from the murder scene in Manhattan to a public beheading in Mecca, to deserted ruins on the coast of Turkey and a Nazi death camp in Alsace as well as the barren wilderness of the Hind Kush in search of a nameless and faceless zealot prepared to commit mass murder in the name of his god.

Destined to be spy thriller of the year, this is so good it is well worth paying excess baggage to bring it on holiday.

Myles McWeeney

Irish Independent

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