Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Honored Dead by Joseph Braude (Plus Giveaway)

Part of Synopsis From Tour Site:

Joseph Braude is the first Western journalist ever to secure embed status with an Arab security force, assigned to a hardened unit of detectives in Casablanca who handle everything from busting al-Qaeda cells to solving homicides. One day he’s given the file for a seemingly commonplace murder: a young guard at a warehouse killed in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Braude is intrigued by the details of the case: the sheer brutality of the murder, the identities of the accused—a soldier—and the victim, a shadowy migrant with links to a radical cleric, and the odd location: a warehouse owned by a wealthy member of one of the few thriving Jewish communities in the Arab world. After interviewing the victim’s best friend, who tearfully insists that the true story of the murder has been covered up by powerful interests, Braude commits to getting to the bottom of it.

This will probably sound a little strange coming from a mystery fan, but I have never really enjoyed reading about real crime.  I have tended to stay away from true crime books, I think mainly because they seem sensationalized to me.  I've always gotten the impression that the author cares more about making money than telling an accurate and fair story.  Because of that bias, I almost passed on this book.  I wasn't sure it would be something I could really enjoy or get into.  I was somewhat familiar with the author's work in journalism, so I was hoping for a little bit more of a story, less "pizazz."  

I was also intrigued by the setting of this book, Morocco.  I'll be the first to admit I know almost nothing about that region of the world other than what I see in the news.  It wasn't a region we really ever studied in school, which I still think the Middle East, Africa, and Asia should get more attention but that's another thought for a different post.  The book itself takes place in the country's largest city, Casablanca.  Now this may sound dumb, but I've never even thought of Casablanca outside the movie, which I've never seen.  So the idea of reading a book set in a country in Northern Africa that I'm not at all familiar with, hooked me.  That was all I needed to set my hesitations aside and dig in.

The book opens after the author has already embedded with the 5th precinct in Casablanca.  He has already witnessed both sides of the way the police force deal with crime and suspects.  Sometimes the heavy hand of violence comes out and others an almost strange emphasis on human rights.  I almost felt as if the police force was schizophrenic in it's approach to the populace of the city.  They can't quite make up their minds on what direction the country should go in.  I will also say that their definition and my definition of human rights probably don't compare very well.

It's not longer after that he is handed a file on the murder of a homeless
Berber man on the property of a Jewish owned warehouse.  The author, who's mother was an Iraqi Jew knows how sensitive of a subject, Judaism and Jews can be in a Muslim country.  The file states that the killer, a member of the military, has already been detained and confessed.  Mr. Braude quickly becomes interested in the case as it deals with cultural, ethnic, religious, and society issues all rolled up into one.  He takes it upon himself to delve into the case further and once he meets the best friend of the murdered man, the author finds himself agreeing to help the friend prove the police are lying about what happened.

The investigation takes them into the shanty towns of Casablanca and rural villages miles away from the city.  They discover that not only are the authorities lying about what happened. but that their are larger motives at work.  It just so happens that they authorities feel that if the truth comes out it will damage societal structures as a whole, so they see it as their duty to hide the truth.

I actually find that concept fairly interesting.  I find the idea of a government or government official covering up the truth of a crime to be rather abhorrent and against what I instinctively feel would happen in this country.  Then I start to think a little more and realize that governments, including ours, constantly try to hide or blur the truth in order to protect "the common good."  What that common good is, I have no idea, but I do know people are always talking about it.  All you have to do is look at the Pat Tillman case and realize that no country is clean of this behavior.

I really got into this book and found myself caring about the case.  I wanted to know what happened to this man and why he had to die.  I found myself sympathizing with him when certain aspects of his life came out.  I would think, but for the fact of where I was born, I could have found myself living the same life.

I even liked the way this book forced me to dust off my sociology degree and delve into the cultural aspects of a country that has so many ethnic and religious layers to it.  It was an insightful look into a way of life and thinking that I'm not at all familiar with, and I thank the author for that.

I would like to also express my thanks to Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  You can read so more insightful (and better written) reviews by visiting the tour page.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!

You will have a chance to win a copy of this book for yourself.  All you have to do is leave a comment with your email address, that's it.  I would love for you to start following the blog as well, but you don't have to.  The giveaway is only open for the US and Canada.

The contest will be open until 11:59 CST on 7/13/11.  After the deadline I will pick a winner using  I will then email the winner who will have 48 hours to contact me with their shipping info.  If they do not, a new winner will be picked.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I adore books set in Morocco - something so exotic and ripe for crime. And you've got to see Casablanca!

Simcha said...

Hm, this sounds like an interesting book. I also don't know much about Morocco though I did once interview a woman who grew up there, and she had some interesting stories to tell. Unfortunately though I don't qualify for the giveaway, but perhaps I'll come across this book another time and will have the chance to read it.

Staci said...

I enjoy reading stories that take place in other countries. I used to read true crime in my late teens until I realized it could happen to me!!! Sounds like one that my husband would get into for sure.

Anonymous said...

I tend to stay away from true crime books as well, but this one caught my attention too. I love that it made you think - that's something I really enjoy in a book.

Thanks for being on the tour Ryan! I'm glad this one turned out to be a good pick for you. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

SusanB said...

This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

(not an entry)

It sounds like it surprised you a bit, that's good. I like that when it happnes. I have pretty much stayed away from True Crime too but that's because of my years at the bookstore. Ann Rule and Serial Killers just plain scare me.

Julie said...

What a great review! I can tell that this book made a real impression on you. I have a keen interest in social/political/economic justice everywhere, and this one sounds as though it's right up my alley. I, too, tend to stay away from a lot of true crime books and autobiographies for pretty much the same reason you listed - self-aggrandizing, dry reads for the most part, but this doesn't seem to fit that mold.

Thanks for the chance to win!


Literary Chanteuse said...

I hadn't heard of this one. Sounds very good! I would love to add this one to my tbr pile! Thanks!


Elizabeth said...

I didn't like the book...sorry.

I had to tell Lisa I had to bow out of the review.

I am glad you enjoyed it.