This compelling novel, the second of a trilogy, propels us forward into the United States of the fairly near future. Houston and, in reprisal, Tehran, have been destroyed by nuclear bombs…America has turned to the far right and is ruled by religious extremists who have taken society back to the 19th century and imposed draconian laws. There is little that is recognisably Christian about these new moralists.
Felix Strange is a private investigator who has been given a dishonourable discharge from the army. He was in Tehran when the bomb went off – before any evidence of weapons of mass destruction had been found – and lives on a diet of pills which are supposed to keep him alive, but is nevertheless living under what is basically a suspended death sentence. In Tehran he was forcibly recruited by an officer named Glass into a death squad whose task was to find Iranian suspected terrorists and subject them to extreme torture followed by summary execution. Eventually he rebelled against this regime and received a dishonourable discharge which enabled him to return to his native New York.
Throughout the novel there are a number of flashbacks to events in Tehran, which, to someone who has not read the first book, are rather confusing. In the present, Strange has set himself up as a PI in New York. In this capacity he is contacted by the wife of a former associate in Tehran, Isaac, who tells him Isaac has disappeared and engages Strange to find him.
The investigations lead Strange into a nightmare world where it is impossible to differentiate friend from foe. He finds his former boss, Glass, is now in a powerful position in what passes for a government. He soon discovers that Isaac is one of many missing persons, whose identities have been expunged from the records. He renews contact with Iris, a former lover who is a member of a secret opposition organisation, all of whom are in danger of torture and death.
Strange gets to a point where he is past caring whether he lives or dies. Iris then disappears and the story ends without resolution, which presumably will happen in the third book.
A very bleak read which is sadly all too convincing. It is probably better if you either tackle the complete trilogy or leave it alone.