I Am The Traitor is the final book in the Unknown Assassin trilogy. In this final installment Zach finally learns the truth about The Program as he searches for his father. The truth however involves some terrible revelations about Zach's family and his father's involvement in The Program.
The novel opens with Zach waiting to meet Mike in his hometown of Rochester, New York, in the hopes he can rescue his friend, Howard, whom the Program has captured. It might be a trap but Zach has to take the risk if he is to free Howard. Zach first goes to the University of Rochester where his father was once a psychology professor, attempting to meet Professor Abraham Silberstein, who was his father's former research partner. He manages to find the room where Dr. Silberstein is lecturing but when Silberstein recognizes Zach in the class he abruptly ends the lecture and flees. Zach pursues him losing him when he runs into Mike dressed as a campus cop. Mike knows that Zach is searching for his father and tries to convince Zach that what he told him in New York was misunderstood. Mike tells him that he should be angry at his father because he is the one who brought the Program into his life. He also warns Zach that he is in serious trouble having gone rogue on his last two missions. He attempts to convince Zach that both his parents are dead and that the Program should now be his family. Hoping that eventually he can get more information from Mike, Zach decides to play along. Mike informs him that they need to clean up the mess he made and kill Howard who is being held at a house in upstate New York. Zach believes that Mike is either telling him the truth and giving him a chance to set things right, or he is lying and by killing Howard, Zach will destroy any chance of learning the truth about his father.
They travel to the house Howard is being kept but before going in Zach is contacted by "Mother" who tells him she has no upcoming assignment for him and he's to relax. Zach believes that Mother knows about Howard and his hacking into the Program server and that she's setting a trap for him. Mike tells him this is not a trap but an opportunity to clear his name with the Program.
In order to gain entry to the home where Howard is Zach calls 911, bringing firetrucks to the house. He quickly finds Howard along with another girl, Tanya who is also being held. Zach gets both Howard and Tanya out of the house but is confronted by several Program soldiers. Outside the house Mike kills the Program soldiers as Zach, Howard and Tanya escape in the Honda Accord. They stop at a diner in Courtland to give Zach a chance to question Howard who is somewhat groggy from the drugs he's been given. Mike contacts Zach at the diner to tell him he's coming after him. Zach finds tracking devices in both Howard and Tanya's clothing. As they head towards Binghamton, New York, Tanya tells Zach she needs to contact her Nana who will be worried. Trusting her, Zach allows this while he and Howard discuss the disappearance of Zach's father and mother. Howard believes that the Program would have had to create a cover story since Zach's parents were both well known researchers. Howard discovers that the Program faked an accident which killed both of Zach's parents. After locating the accident report they head to the police station at Horseheads to talk to Sergeant Manning who wrote up the accident report. Not surprisingly they learn that Manning died from a heart attack two days earlier.
After escaping from Mike who tried to run them off the road at Horseheads, Zach is contacted by him and learns that his parents' are dead but not as a result of the accident which was staged by the Program. He tells Zach to get rid of Howard and Tanya. The next morning Howard does remember Zach. Zach needs to find out more about his father and to that end he needs to access the Program's server. They decide to pay Dr. Silberstein a visit but they need to know where the mag-stripe security pass that Zach stole from him is from. Howard learns that the card is from the Mercurio Institute and that's where they head next. Impersonating Joshua Silberstein, Dr. Silberstein's son who was Zach's best friend when they were younger, Zach gains access to the doctor's lab. Dr. Silberstein offers Zach more pieces of the puzzle about his parents but each step leads to the destruction of the people Zach meets and demonstrates that the Program is willing to do just about anything to stop him from learning the truth about what really happened to his parents.
I Am The Traitor is a suspenseful, fast-paced novel that is impossible to put down. Like the two previous novels it is characterized by plenty of action and a fair number of dead bodies including several very cruel murders by Zach. In this novel Zach is determined to find his father because he no longer believes what he's been told by the Program. He never suspects the truth that is revealed to him near the end of the novel.
When Zach does find his father, the reality of what his father's involvement in the Program entails, leads him to realize that he cannot allow him to continue his research. Zach learns that his father initially designed a chip to suppress fear in soldiers. However, the chip didn't seem to work completely the way they wanted. Soldiers still experienced PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome). His father discovered that if the chip was implanted in children twelve or younger, it seemed to function better. So he deliberately turned his own son over to the Program and made him a test subject for a controversial research project - the implantation of a chip that was designed to suppress fear in soldiers. As part of that project, Zach was trained to be an assassin. Zach states, "Instead of making them soldiers, you made them assassins." His father does not believe there is anything wrong with this, instead he tells his son that the Program was a brilliant way to test the chip. As Zach became older he began to rebel against the Program, something his father believed was the result of the chip. So he developed a new chip, one that removes all feelings and remorse, in effect creating soldiers without a conscience. "Once this chip is inside you, there will be no more feelings. No questions, no mistakes, no need for disloyalty." When his father tries to force Zach to have this new chip implanted, Zach realizes he will never be free of his father or the Program unless he acts to put an end to it.
Although Zach kills many people, most of his murders are in self defense except for the last two. He sees no way out of the Program other than to kill the two people who created the entire operation, although realistically, with so many Program assets it's hard to see how this would solve Zach's problem in the long term.
The character of Tanya in I Am The Traitor is rather interesting. She seems to represent a typical Bond girl in this Bond-type story;we really don't know if she is for or against Zach. At first she appears to be a helpless girl caught in the Program's net and Zach doesn't seem much interested in her. But soon it's apparent that she is much more than helpless; she can handle a gun and she can fight. Very quickly she and Zach become romantically involved further complicating their relationship. Zach doesn't know what her motives are or whether he can trust her, but he does. In the end she decides to fight with Zach.
Zadoff manages to maintain suspense until the very end of the novel with several other plot twists. Zadoff has stated that the idea for his Unknown Assassin trilogy came from a character who was a trained assassin who assumed a new identity for each mission. Those missions were usually to kill the parents of the teens he was to befriend.
Overall, I Am The Traitor is an action-packed thriller, with plenty of twists, some very disturbing murders, a touch of romance, and a solid, good ending.
I Am The Traitor by Allen Zadoff
New York: Little, Brown and Company 2015