Monday, June 20, 2011

The Honored Dead by Joseph Braude

Since I tend to read mostly mysteries and women's fiction, my reading doesn't usually end up in the Arab world. Joseph Braude's true crime book, The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World, takes readers inside the Arab world of Morocco. It's more than a true crime book. It's a study of Arab politics, beliefs, and culture. The investigation into a murder is just a vehicle for Braude to introduce readers to a different world.

Braude's mother was an Iraqi Jew, a woman who remembered the Baghdad of her childhood with fondness. She shared that passion with her son, who grew up to study Arabic, study Iraq, and work all over the Arab world until his misguided naive beliefs got him into trouble. And, that trouble ended a ten-year friendship with the man he considered his best friend. Braude relates his story in greater detail as part of the account of his experiences in Casablanca, Morocco.

Braude's account of his investigation into a murder opens with the victim's friend, Muhammad Bari, the man who befriended Braude, and pushed to learn the truth about his friend's death. He thought Braude could help him. At the time, Moroccan officials had allowed Braude to have "embed-style" access to a precinct of the Moroccan police for four months. He was attached to the Judiciary Police. "Like the American FBI, they gather evidence, interrogate witnesses, apprehend suspects, and arraign the alleged perpetrators of grand crimes," crimes equivalent to felonies. One of those crimes was the murder of Ibrahim Dey, killed in a warehouse. Although the killer was apprehended after three days, Bari wasn't satisfied that the truth had come out about his friend's death. He wanted to know why Dey had died.

To find out the truth, Bari enlisted Joseph Braude, knowing he had access to the police. Braude made it clear to the police that he was looking into the death, and they provided limited access to reports. But, the true story in The Honored Dead is the story of the people and the communities in Morocco where Bari and Braude searched for answers. And, it's the story of a man who knew how to honor friendship, Muhammad Bari.

The Honored Dead is a true crime story of an investigation. But, I was fascinated by the book because of Braude's information about the Arab world, about life and beliefs there, and the opposing forces fighting for control of so many countries, and so many people. The beliefs there are ones we don't share or understand in the U.S.  Braude shared his background, his honesty about his own faults, and his knowledge, as well as admission of lack of knowledge, of the countries and cultures he came to appreciate.

The Honored Dead is an account of a convoluted investigation. Is there a satisfactory answer to the search for truth? Not necessarily. But, I'd suggest readers look at the book as a study of a culture and way of life we don't understand.

The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World by Joseph Braude. Random House. ©2011. ISBN 9780385527033 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent a copy of this book to participate in the TLC Book Tour.


Liz V. said...

Have read other good reviews about The Honored Dead. Hope to read soon although, post-op, I found myself unable to get through the dutifully compiled stack of books on the Balkan Wars, Middle East crises, Holocaust, Japanese POW camps, etc. What had I been thinking! As I explained to a friend, I needed to read about something fun--like murder, in cozy form.

Lesa said...

What were you thinking, Liz? You do need to read something fun in between all those tough subjects. Good luck! I will say, though, that The Honored Dead is readable nonfiction.

LisaMM said...

This sounds so compelling! Thanks for the great review and for being on the tour.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Lisa.

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