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STRANGE FIRE by Melvin Jules Bukiet


by Melvin Jules Bukiet

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-393-04938-8
Publisher: Norton

Bukiet tries his hand at a thriller, while continuing to explore the Jewish world as he has previously (Signs and Wonders, 1999, etc.).

Nathan Kazakov, the narrator-hero, seems already at a severe disadvantage compared to the other characters here: as a result of his two-year captivity while a POW held by the Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, he is blind and horribly disfigured. But the Russian-born ex-poet still has a quick mind, a fertile, almost febrile, brain and a scathing wit, not to mention a delightfully loyal German shepherd seeing-eye dog named Goldie. And at the outset of the story, he’s the prized speechwriter of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Simon Ben Levi, deeply infatuated with Simon’s famous archaeologist (and leftist) son Gabriel. When a Jewish religious fanatic takes a shot at Nathan and Gabriel at a public gathering, Nathan is left with one less ear and a fervent desire to find out what happened. His investigations lead him into the proverbial hall of mirrors of Israeli-Palestinian politics, from a mud-processing plant run by Jewish settlers on the banks of the Dead Sea to the tunnel underneath the Dome of the Rock in the holiest of places in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Bukiet’s excursion into the ostensibly more commercial precincts of the political thriller has not left him bereft of his trademark sarcasm and linguistic fireworks; indeed, with Nathan as narrator, there is probably more wordplay per square inch here than in a dozen genre exercises. Bukiet is not as deft a plotter as the genre requires, and there are still some fine points of plot that one is left pondering by the final—literally explosive—climax, but it’s good nasty fun.

Kazakov is a likable guide for this package tour of the hell of Middle East politics, though it could profitably be shortened by 40 or 50 pages.