In his latest ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, Patterson puts the screws to a San Francisco lawyer called to defend his Palestinian ex-lover on murder charges after she’s accused of conspiring to kill the Israeli Prime Minister.
A thoroughly unconvincing series of flashbacks shows how, 13 years ago, David Wolfe, a comfortably secularized Jew, and his fellow Harvard Law student, Hana Arif, carried on a torrid romance under the nose of her fiancé, Palestinian activist Saeb Khalid. Now David is compromising his future in politics by answering Hana’s plea for help. The testimony of Ibrahim Jefar, a suicide bomber who took part in the bombing of peacenik Israeli Prime Minister Amos Ben-Aron but didn’t succeed in killing himself, implicates her in the plot. Although David assures his fiancée Carole Shorr that he won’t take Hana’s case, it’s so hot that no other qualified lawyer will touch it. As David settles uneasily into Hana’s defense, he senses his old life—his political dreams, his engagement to Carol, the friendship of her wealthy father, a Holocaust survivor—slipping away. Nor is there any certainty that he’ll win Hana’s acquittal. The only sure bet is that Patterson (Conviction, 2005, etc.) will seize the opportunity to present characters giving voice to every possible perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An endless roll call of people and perspectives bloats David’s fact-finding trip to Israel. The result, very typical of Patterson, is perceptive and even-handed analysis but sagging drama. Hana’s trial promises more in the way of fireworks, but despite some sharp courtroom scenes, the big climax will surprise no one but David.
A riveting premise, a sympathetic ear for every party to an intractable problem, the geopolitics of the earth’s most volatile region all balanced on the backs of a handful of tormented souls—not by a long shot Patterson's best book, but in many ways his most characteristic.