WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL?

Bernard-Henri Levy, Author, James X. Mitchell, Translator , trans. from the French by James X. Mitchell. Melville House $25.95 (454p) ISBN 978-0-9718659-4-5

Ostensibly an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, this ends up being a much more ambitious account of the nefarious complicity of factions as varied as the Pakistan's ISI (the secret service), regional Islamist groups, a wealthy landowner, Pearl defendant Omar Sheikh and al-Qaida. It's a gripping read, as full of suspenseful twists as of bold and occasionally loose theories. At their root is Sheikh, the English-bred Pakistani radical who was convicted of masterminding the Pearl crime. But this conviction, in the author's fast-moving mind, is far from an open-and-shut case, and Lévy follows up his preliminary conclusion that "the affair contained a heavy and terrible secret." What that secret is grows and changes, but in the final analysis it comes down to Sheikh being an operative of both the ISI and al-Qaida and then taking the fall for both at the trial. Pearl, Lévy argues, was killed not for who he was, but because of what he had discovered. The conclusions, however, are in a sense less important than the ride that gets us there. The author's moments of gonzo journalism are thrilling, as when he penetrates a forbidden madrasa (seminary) by posing as "a special representative of the French president." The earlier passages of the book, which take some literary license in describing what Pearl must have felt, is alone worth the price of admission. This book is a controversial bestseller in France, where Levy has long been a leading philosopher and writer. Here, interest in Pearl and the larger issues makes this both fascinating and essential, even if you don't quite buy it all, and a credit to the investigative reporter whose work it seeks to honor. (Sept. 3)

Forecast:This could be a big book for a small press. The author is booked on the Today show and Fox and Friends, for interviews with New York magazine and the L.A. Times, and reviews are confirmed for several major newspapers. (For an intimate view of Pearl, his life and death, see review below of A Mighty Heart, by Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton.)

Reviewed on: 08/25/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-7156-3322-9
Paperback - 454 pages - 978-0-9749609-4-4
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