GUARDING THE SECRETS by Ellen Harris

GUARDING THE SECRETS

Palestinian Fanaticism and a Father's Murder of His Too-American Daughter
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The human drama overshadows the political intrigue in this uneven account of a Palestinian who murdered his daughter. Near midnight on November 5, 1989, in a run-down house in inner-city St. Louis, 16-year-old high school senior Tina Isa was stabbed to death by her father, Zein, while her mother, Maria, looked on. From the start police doubted Zein's claim that Tina had a long history of rebellion and had attacked him first; proof that he was lying came from an FBI bug of the Isa home that had captured Zein telling Tina, ``Die! Die quickly!'' and Maria responding, ``Shut up,'' as her daughter begged for mercy. The parents were ultimately sentenced to death, and the murder was depicted in news stories around the world as an ``honor killing'' perpetrated by a backwards Palestinian who felt his Americanized, free-thinking daughter had brought shame to the family. In 1991, however, it was finally revealed that the Isa house had been bugged because Zein was suspected of clandestine activities in the US in support of Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, and it was suggested that Tina- -short for Palestina--had been murdered because she knew too much. St. Louis TV reporter Harris (Dying to Get Married, 1991) interviewed members of the Isa family and had access to thousands of hours of tapes recording Zein and his co-conspirators. The author's descriptions of terrorist intrigue are muddled, and she is far too worshipful of the law-enforcement officials, lawyers, and judges she depended on as sources. But Harris shines in the chilling reconstruction of the events leading to Tina's death, complete with jealous older sisters urging their father to murder. At its heart, and where it succeeds, the tragic story of a talented, vivacious young girl who desperately wanted to be a normal American teenager. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-02-548335-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995