The Year of the Locust: A Thriller

Image of The Year of the Locust: A Thriller
Release Date: 
February 6, 2024
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Reviewed by: 

not only an epic novel, it’s an epic read.”

“I had heard rumours that the latest search for The Magus was proving to be no more successful than its predecessors and I figured that sooner or later an elite member of US intelligence would realize I probably had the necessary skills to bring a new approach to the pursuit,” explains CIA agent Ridley Kane about his assignment in The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes.

“By a strange set of circumstances, I was one of a small cadre of spies who specialized in entering what are called Denied Access Areas—places under total hostile control such as Russia and Syria, North Korea, Iran and the tribal zones of Pakistan—so I had more knowledge than most about how someone who was being hunted to the death might evade discovery.

“In short, The Magus obviously knew how to hide. And so did I.”

Hayes is a former journalist and Emmy-nominated screenwriter who wrote the screenplays for, among others, Mad Max 2: Road WarriorDead Calm, Mad Max Beyond ThunderdomePayback, From Hell, and Vertical Limit, and whose previous bestselling novel, I Am Pilgrim, was published ten years ago to rave reviews.

CIA agent Ridley Kane, a Denied Access Area spy for the CIA (meaning he can go wherever and do whatever needs to be done), is sent to the baddest of the badlands, the remote and geographically hostile 1600-mile border where Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan meet. Known as one of the most dangerous spots in the world, it’s a lawless place, the perfect place for robbers, murderers, and terrorists to hide in its many caves.

His job is to extricate an informant who has information about an upcoming Armageddon-like terrorist attack. He’s too late. The informant has been captured by The New Islamic Army of the Pure, and his family—a wife and two daughters staked out and left to die in the terrorist’s camp.

If Kane followed protocol, he would fade back into the desert, but he can’t leave the mother and daughters to die and shoots their captors, setting them free. A noble act but one that makes it personal with Abu Muslim al-Tundra, known as the locust and formerly a chief with al-Qaeda and ISIS and an extremely deadly adversary. It’s al-Tundra’s brother that Kane has killed.

The Year of the Locust took Hayes ten years to write and it was when he was stuck in Portugal because of the COVID quarantine, away from his wife and three children, that he finally finished the 250,000-word novel.

But Kane definitely goes places, and among the many fascinating aspects of his book are his descriptions of locations most people won’t know anything about. Take Baku, a city on the Caspian Sea in what is now Azerbaijan, where one of the climactic scenes from the book occurs. It’s also where the Rothschilds, and the Nobels (of the Swedish family, founders of the Nobel Prize) established a thriving oil industry there in the 1870s, building mansions as they sucked the oil out of the ground.

Hayes pushes the boundaries of international thrillers veering into science fiction at times, plus he adds a little romance and a lot of heroism. In all it’s not only an epic novel, it’s an epic read.