In this taut novel, the dark complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict hit home for a hard-edged female human rights attorney when her soldier son is kidnaped by Hezbollah.
Dahlia Barr, a 44-year-old beauty whose defense of Palestinians has made her an object of derision for many Israelis—including her extreme activist mother, Erika—unexpectedly is tapped by the Israel Police to serve as an arbiter in regard to interrogation methods. Among her first cases is that of Mohammed Al-Masri, a Canadian political-science professor (and CNN contributor) who was a schoolmate of Dahlia’s when he was growing up in Israel. Dahlia is still close to his mother, whom she regards as an aunt. Edward, as he now insists on being called, is being secretly held for attempting to smuggle a large sum of money into Israel. After telling police the money was to build a house for his mother, he tells Dahlia that it was planted on him by "stinking Jews." After viewing video footage of her soldier son, Ari, being tortured, Dahlia will stop at nothing to get Edward to tell her where 20-year-old Ari is being held. In a matter of pages, the Israelis mount an intricate, highly risky, Entebbe-like scheme to snatch Ari out of Lebanon. While aspects of this story call out for fuller or more rounded treatment, the novel gains an urgency and readability from its succession of one- and two-page chapters and overall brevity. Dahlia—who, in the wake of a failed marriage, is having an affair with an American CNN reporter—is a magnetic presence throughout. In an extraordinary scene, she goes through protesters' tents outside the Knesset to find Erika and orders her to submit to a blood test to determine if she is a suitable kidney donor for her brutalized grandson.
The lie in the title, which readers may be onto well before it is fully revealed, provides a powerful and unsettling finale.