A unique 1,000-year-old book is the pursued object of this scriptural detective story.

Inscribed with precision on vellum in the 10th century, the book known as the Crown of Aleppo has been, over the centuries, the most authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible. Produced by a sect that owed fealty solely to the written Word, the Crown survived the Crusades in Jerusalem. In the outskirts of Cairo in the 12th century, it was studied by the great physician-philosopher Maimonides. It traveled eventually to Aleppo, Syria, where it was reverently safeguarded in a synagogue. That history is not disputed. But in 1947, when the establishment of the State of Israel was ratified by the UN, an anti-Semitic riot erupted and the Aleppo synagogue was torched and sacked. The sacred text was saved, hidden with a Muslim merchant, transported covertly to Turkey and eventually brought back to Jerusalem and the new Jewish nation. Nevertheless, it was not a happy ending. Only three-fifths of the Crown ended in the hands of the government caretakers. Absent was the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses. The dramatic story of the book and the search for the missing pages attracted a president of Israel, undercover agents, specialists and colorful and wealthy dealers in ancient texts. There were false trails, lies and deaths. The best theory: The central jewels of the Aleppo Crown were taken after it reached Jerusalem. After more than half a century, the pages have still not been recovered, but AP correspondent Friedman is fairly sure who took them, naming a learned, highly placed government official, a sage collector could not resist the remarkable text. As the author wryly concludes, the “page with the passage Thou shalt not steal was stolen. Also missing are the commandments not to bear false witness, covet another’s property, or commit murder”—all violated, he notes in his sharply etched story of the Aleppo Codex. Through the Levantine haze and a millennium of safekeeping, a carefully paced narrative of purloined Judaica.


Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61620-040-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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