JERICHO MOSAIC by Edward Whittemore


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As befits his primary subject--the Middle East--Whittemore's novels are based on the idea of intersection of culture and identities. The previous books of this quartet (Sinai Tapestry, Jerusalem Poker, Nile Shadows) inventively starred chief actors who were nearly outrageous parodies of Semitic archetype, yet who lent a fantastic keynote to the proceedings (however ultimately dizzying and muddled). Now, though, for the final volume, the journalist in Whittemore (and he clearly knows the Arab world in detail and with great breadth of understanding) has taken over. The result is a sort of mini-Michener that is, alas (thanks in part to a droning textureless prose unlike that of the earlier books), fairly dull. Yossi is a brilliant Israeli Mossad agent who becomes Halim, a Syrian businessman based in Damascus--providing Israeli intelligence with invaluable information about the Golan Heights before the wars, then about the Palestinian efforts later. So good at his camouflage is Yossi/Halim that both he and his Israeli bosses wonder when it will be that he turns double agent completely--a fate, Whittemore is arguing, that the all involving political yet essentially (if weirdly) locking nature of society in this part of the world makes not at all odd. Older agents--British, Arab, Israeli, in Jerusalem, Damascus, Jericho, and Beirut--watch Yossi/Halim and others with an eye for their dangerousness; but a reader can be wearied by all the chronology, the following of Yossi/Halim through every crisis of every year in the area. By becoming more ""accessible,"" Whittemore seems to have deserted imagination in favor of an encyclopedic summary of 35 years of war and strategy.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Norton