THE LAST OF DAYS by Moris Farhi


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An Israeli/Jordanian team of super-spies valiantly tries to prevent a self-proclaimed Muslim messiah from unleashing a nuclear holocaust--in a long, busy, farfetched thriller that mixes gore and technology with broodingly intense characterizations. It's 1973, and both Israel and Jordan have deduced that Abu Ismail, leader of the Warriors of Jihad, is planning something big and terrible--""Operation Dragons."" So Israeli agent Boaz, who's neurotic, suicidal, and impotent (guilt over the violent deaths of both mother and sister), joins up with Jordanian agent Osman in an assassination plan: posing as pilgrims to Mecca, they carry out an elaborate scheme to isolate fellow-pilgrim Abu Ismail, then kill him--only to discover they've murdered a double! Meanwhile, the real Abu Ismail has been putting together his mad plot with Soviet/Libyan assistance: he hijacks plutonium from a French plane in Lisbon; he recruits a Japanese Red Arm explosives/ electronics expert; he abducts a Lebanese physicist; he locates a hideout in the Ethiopian mountains; he enlists support from Ethiopian rebels; he plans, you see, to drop a nuclear bomb on Mecca. . . and put the blame on Israel. The action, then, shifts largely to Ethiopia, jumping around from the Abu Ismail bomb-building contingent (much of which dies from radiation sickness) to the Israeli/Jordanian/Ethiopian/French/CIA anti-Abu Ismail contingent--all trying to track down the terrorists' hideout. (Among the Israelis is Falasha-born Sanbat, who adores Boaz, eventually curing his impotence after she suffers rape/torture similar to that suffered by Boaz's dead sister.) And finally, following dozens of deaths, much cat-and-mouse, and Abu Ismail's elimination of a beloved Judas, there's a long, moment-by-moment showdown at Addis Ababa airport: hijacking, hostages, and Boaz's debate-cum-hand-to-hand-combat with Abu Ismail, who can detonate that nuclear bomb at any moment via a trigger in his tooth. First-novelist Farhi does an effective, clever job with several of the action-sequences here, especially the Mecca assassination episode (with intriguing hajj details). He works hard at suggesting Boaz's existential misery, the complex Boaz/Osman friendship, the Abu Ismail fanaticism. But the largely implausible plot--less authentic-seeming than that of The Fifth Horseman--is too fragmented and ill-paced to provide steady suspense; and, despite some serious touches, this ungainly, inventive doomsday-book will probably appeal most to fanciers of techno-oriented combat/intrigue.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1983
Publisher: Crown