Date Published19 August 2021
Price£ 8.99


by Philip Kerr

When three cases a lapsed Catholic FBI agent is working on collide – the explosive intentions of a domestic terrorist cell, and two cases of unexplained serial murder – religion seems to be behind them all.


Prayer was first published in 2013 and reissued in paperback this year. Philip Kerr was such an intelligent writer that it is easy to relax into his books and become a sort of participant rather than an onlooker – or in this case one of the congregation. With a title such as Prayer, it should be obvious that faith is at the bedrock of the novel, but it is only three quarters of the way through that we discover what is actually meant by this. Although it is equally obvious from the start that the church and religion make up the three main themes running through the book. Rather ominously there is an Oscar Wilde quote at the beginning that reads: ‘When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.’

Gil Martins is a Scot far from home in the state of Texas, working for the FBI, and trying to save his marriage. His faith has lapsed, which is causing the rift in his marriage, and his OCD habits are becoming a worry to his bosses. When an unexplained death becomes his case, it seems to be unsolvable. More deaths come to light, each deceased a ‘good’ person, whose charity is beyond reproach. At the same time, anti-religion influencers start to die horrible deaths, almost as though terror has driven them to suicide. There is, however, no rational reason behind this.

Then a woman gives herself up as the killer of one of these non-believers. Her method of despatch is prayer. Not surprisingly, this gains no traction with the police and it is only when Martins becomes involved that possibilities – unbelievable ones mostly – start to form.
Running in the background is a story strand concerning a domestic terrorist group who appear to be out to kill a great many of the state’s Jews. They have access to particularly nasty weaponry and must be neutralised before any of it can be activated.

There is a point in the novel that you could be forgiven for thinking you’d have strayed into a Dennis Wheatley book. Yet instead of the powers of Hell being unleashed it is something else – even more powerful.

Martins has been put on home leave – his personal problems needing to be sorted out before his return to work. He cannot put his cases down, however; or maybe the intense religion of a particular Church and its leader can’t put him down. Texas, with its huge expanses, guns, desolations, beliefs and heat might not be a match for the storms and terrors heading his way. This is not a book, it turns out, to be read in the dark hours.

Reviewed 19 February 2022 by Kerry Hood

Kerry Hood has worked in publishing for many years and lived in London for just as many, but suspects her heart is in the country.