Two masters of their art, one working for the good of his country and one toward plotting its end, come head to head in this fast moving adventure. The hero is Pilgrim, an intelligence officer, a spy and trained assassin, for a highly secret agency of the United States government. He is very good at his job, often brutal, but he believes he it is all worth it, because he is protecting his country. The Saracen is the enemy. He is a Middle Eastern terrorist hell bent on revenge. As a fourteen year old boy, he had witnessed the beheading of his father for refusing to dishonor his religion, and now, he too, is defending it, at all costs. A devout Muslim, he is very good at his job. First, he was a Mujahedeen with a great reputation for success. He was courted, befriended and educated by the fanatics in the Muslim world, but as a loner, he is now a diabolical killer, plotting the end of America using a biological weapon. His methods are both cold-hearted and terrifying. He has no conscience, brutality has no effect on him, and he believes he is doing the work of his G-d, Allah.
Both men had sad and difficult childhoods, both had to take on responsibility for themselves at an early age, both turned out differently than they thought they would, both had violent anger and resentment within them, but their paths veered in different directions. Both had a hidden history and identity. Both could kill in a cold hearted way, both were driven for a cause, one for the USA and the other for Allah. Both were extremely intelligent and dedicated as they turned into murderers, but one turned his efforts into a patriotic pursuit (depending on the eye of the beholder), and the other directed his efforts into terrorism (what some might describe as freedom fighting). The story moves from one of them to the other as it develops, and the similarity between the men is apparent. It exposes the fine line between right and wrong, depending on individual philosophy.
The story takes us through a good deal of Middle Eastern history and explores the reason the Saracen turned from a good son into a monster, able to commit horrific crimes without a conscience. The background story is one that is commonplace in his world, and it is the reason many a young man turns to radical Islam and terrorism. The reader is taken to Europe, Russia and the Middle East as the Pilgrim seeks his prey.
When the tale begins, Pilgrim, alias Scott Murdock, alias Jude Garrett, alias Peter Cambell, and a host of other names, has been in hiding for several years, using a new identity, trying to escape his past. However, no matter how well he thought he had covered his tracks, he was suddenly discovered by a New York City cop, Ben Bradley, who had tracked him down to ask him for his help with a murder investigation in New York City, which took place shortly after 9/11. It seems in the personality of Scott Murdock, Pilgrim had once written a book on crime, and the murderer used it as a manual to commit “the perfect crime”.
The details of 9/11 were well researched (as were other historical events covered in the book). They brought back horrific memories. Bradley was severely injured in a rescue attempt when the buildings collapsed and Pilgrim investigated the events surrounding it and its perpetrators. Several events exhibiting the madness of History are explored and examined in detail throughout the book as the author weaves real events into the narrative, like the Holocaust, as well, in order to develop the characters’ lives and their backgrounds. He points out the reasons for their life choices and the serendipity that brought Pilgrim and Bradley together to prevent the Saracen’s heinous plot against the US. The confluence of this murder investigation and the possible terrorist threat of mass murder again, using a deadly virus, is the catalyst for the story. As terrorism takes center stage, spy networks and their methods are detailed. They are not always pretty. It seems that there is a great deal of corruption everywhere. The Arab world is seething with resentment, the need to discover their attempts at revenge and mass murder overwhelming and all consuming. While both Pilgrim and the Saracen are wanderers and both have one objective, Pilgrim works for national security and Saracen seeks to undermine it. He believes that any means justifies his ends and his religious fervor.
The author says, at one point (I paraphrase), when the price of oil is driven down, the Saudis won’t be able to buy their safety from the extremists, the United States will decline, Israel will be alone and exposed. It seems profoundly prophetic at this time with a Middle East erupting in violence and a United States government no longer steadfastly supporting Israel.
There are so many themes branching off in different directions, it is sometimes hard to keep track, but in the end, the loose ends all tie up rather nicely and the entire story comes together. It is neatly set up for another in the series. Ingrid will resurface at one point, I feel sure.