Jamal Shirani stands sweating before a suspicious Heathrow customs officer, having just arrived from a jihadi training camp in Pakistan. John Buchanan “Jo-Buck” Brown bids farewell to friends and family on the eve of his departure for Parris Island and a tour in the war-torn Middle East as a newly minted United States Marine. And, somewhere deep in the subterranean confines of a rat-infested cellar, a kidnapped woman awaits a chance to escape repeated rape by any means possible.
What do these three characters, in far-flung corners of the world, have in common? They’re all fascinating players in the intricate, tightly woven plot of author Ian King’s superb new global thriller Siren Song.
We’ve all witnessed the violent results of a terrorist attack in the name of jihadi revenge against the West. But this book offers a wholly new, insightful glimpse into the hearts and minds of the zealots who conspire daily in places far and wide to carry out these willful, deadly assaults in the name of Allah.
The book’s characters come vividly to life under the author’s skillful hand to trace the often painful beginnings and misguided motivations behind the participants in the long War on Terror. Indeed, the narrative is often driven more by relentless and intense character study than by events.
Jamal survives his encounter with the authorities at the London airport and goes on to cultivate a dangerous cell of bomb-making jihadists of his own. A deeply disillusioned Jo-Buck draws black Xs on a calendar in the desert, counting the days until he goes home. And the unfortunate woman in the dank cellar finally achieves release from her physical confines; but is never completely free of its life-shattering impact.
It’s not a happy story, this fascinating literary mosaic of loosely connected vignettes. But it is an important one that takes the reader on the veritable emotional roller coaster often talked about in other books, but fully realized in this one. Love it or hate it, like a particularly controversial work of art, this well-crafted saga will leave its mark on your consciousness.
One chillingly bold act in particular will sear the date 12/25 in your mind for a long, long time.
One other unique aspect to this remarkable book is an occasional acerbic observation offered up by a disembodied, omnipotent deity, commenting on the relative absurdity of the goings-on far below Him. Some of His comments, while decidedly irreligious, are truly priceless.
Five-plus stars to Siren Song. It stands far above the current gamut of stereotypical Middle Eastern terrorist plot potboilers, and makes for an outstanding summertime — or anytime — read.