The First Stone

John Briley, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-688-15235-2
Briley's artful third novel is an inside look at Saudi society from a woman's point of view. The Mossad recruits blonde, beautiful Lisa Cooper, a UCLA student of Scots-Jewish extraction, to marry rich Saudi Le'ith Safadi and live veiled, as a mole, in his harem. The two elope despite the objections of Le'ith's powerful, conservative family and Lisa's reluctance to live under the constraints of Muslim law. She goes along with the scam out of family feeling--her kibbutznik uncle and cousins were killed by Arab bombers--and we go along because Briley once again manages to weave together personal intrigue with international events, as he did in both his Vietnam novel, Traitors, and his Oscar-winning screenplay, Gandhi. Le'ith's envious brother, Youssef, suspects that Lisa's a spy; as she wins over his clever sister, Reena, and his aunt Huda, we see her learning to maneuver in the conspiracy-ridden world of the harem. Along the way, of course, she falls in love with Le'ith, but when the marines are killed in Beirut and her husband rises to power in the Saudi government, Lisa's position grows precarious, and Youssef's tests and traps endanger her more and more. When Le'ith tries to act on his own moderate solution to Saudi (and Israeli) isolation in the face of the fiery fundamentalists, Lisa is forced into a deadly double game with her husband, Youssef, the Mossad and other perilous enemies and allies. Briley paints vivid pictures throughout of harem life, Saudi family manipulations and the politics of this tempestuous time and place. (July)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1961
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