Bystander

Muriel Kagan Zager, Author Strawberry Hill Press $9.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-89407-109-6
American journalist Julia Fields is trying to solve a murder in the Armenian section of old Jerusalem, for which a friend has been arrested. Despite its whodunit veneer, this overly ambitious first novel centers on despair and survival in the Middle East. That ambition is both its strength and its weakness. Freelance journalist Zager apparently knows the hazy world of the Midle East well, portraying both the pathos and celebration of life in the Armenian, Arab and Jewish quarters realistically. Zager daringly makes the unmasking of the murderer a hollow victory, as innocent victims continue to suffer. On the other hand, the complexities of strife between Jew and Arab, and within the Armenian Church, make Fields's investigation difficult to follow, and parts of the novel seem grafted on merely to add texture. Fields seems remarkably unchanged at the end, despite robbery, a torrid affair, and the discovery that her friend, whom she proves innocent of the murder, has been raped and killed in jail. That complexity and lack of emotional resonance will lead readers to be intrigued by the story without ever feeling truly involved with it. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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