Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Exile by Richard North Patterson

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Exile by Richard North Patterson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Exile by Richard North Patterson

Exile by Richard North Patterson

Henry Holt and Company (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8050-7947-5 (0805079475)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-7947-0 (9780805079470)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $26.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): David Wolfe's life is approaching an exhilarating peak: he's a successful San Francisco lawyer, he's about to get married, and he's being primed for a run for Congress. But when the phone rings and he hears the voice of Hana Arif--the Palestinian woman with whom he had a secret affair in law school--he begins a completely unexpected journey. The next day, the prime minister of Israel is assassinated by a suicide bomber while visiting San Francisco; soon, Hana herself is accused of being the mastermind behind the murder. Now David faces an agonizing choice: Will he, a Jew, represent Hana--who may well be guilty--or will he turn away the one woman he can never forget?

The most challenging case of David's career requires that he delve deep into the lives of Hana Arif and her militant Palestinian husband, both of whom have always lived in exile. Ultimately, David's quest takes him to Israel and the West Bank, where, in a series of harrowing encounters, he learns that appearances are not at all what they seem.

Review: Richard North Patterson has crafted an international legal thriller in Exile that is at its best in the courtroom but also manages to deftly balance the ideologies and realities of the Middle East without being patronizing to either side.

David Wolfe, a successful and politically well connected attorney in San Francisco is asked to defend a woman, Hana Arif, who is accused of being behind the assassination of the visiting Prime Mininster of Israel by a survivor of the suicide bomber team. One complicating factor: Hana and David had a secret affair while in law school. Another more complicating factor: Hana is Palestinian and David is Jewish. Believing Hana to have been set up by person or persons unknown, David agrees to represent her and creates a defense that may bring to light secrets that some are willing to kill to keep hidden.

Much of the story in Exile takes place in Israel and the Occupied Territories, even if current events play out in the US. And Patterson devotes about a quarter of the book to a brief history of the conflict there in the guise of a trip David takes to the region to learn more for his defense of Hana. But, as he is told by a trusted friend, "Israel is not a place that lends itself to easy understanding. For that, you'll need a guide." Patterson, himself, tries to be that guide in providing what certainly appears to be a fair representation of the Middle East situation. He has obviously done a vast amount of research on the subject, and he is to be applauded for the impartial way in which it is presented. But is there a lesson to be learned here? As David is told upon his arrival in Israel: "[The lesson] is simple. Don't ever think you understand this place."

The courtroom scenes are riveting. It's easy for the reader to imagine themselves part of the jury, watching the dynamics of the prosecution and defense, straining to hear every word of the witnesses, trying to sort out what is fact and fiction, what is hypothetical and rhetorical. Clearly the best part of Exile, it's somewhat unfortunate these scenes are relatively brief.

In a final ironic twist, and much like the situation in the Middle East itself, Exile ends leaving much unresolved. The is no "happily ever after" conclusion here. Though the case ends, the future for its participants is unknown and the mystery of who exactly was behind the assassination of the Prime Minister remains just that.

Special thanks to FSB Associates for providing an ARC of Exile for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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