"Savagely funny....Never was Jewish wit put to better or more urgent use."—Chicago Tribune, a Favorite Book of 2001
Blind, homosexual, Russian émigré speechwriter Nathan Kazakov has enough problems even before his left ear is obliterated by a bullet presumably meant for the Israeli prime minister. Determined to solve the mystery, Nathan begins exploring a web of conspiracies involving messianic orthodox settlers, Arab terrorists, and the Israeli secret service. Was the bullet intended for Nathan after all? or perhaps for the prime minister's son Gabriel, an archaeologist who shuns his father's politics? One trail leads to Leviticus, another beneath the Temple Mount. Strange Fire is "a stunning literary achievement" (Miami Herald) fueled by Bukiet's singular imagination. A Washington Post Book World 2001 Rave, a Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year, and a Booklist Editors' Choice. "Corrupt, violent, zigzagging atmosphere...a raucous vituperative attack on every kind of political hypocrisy."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
Prescient, more or less it doesn't take a prophet to forecast cyclical violence in the Middle East Bukiet's witty, engrossing novel anticipates the current resurgence of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, chronicling the derailment of the peace process after a conservative victory in the Knesset. Like an Israeli All the Kings Menrecast as a thriller, the tale is told by a political aide Nathan Kazakov, a blind ex-POW, Russian immigrant, former poet, Lebanon invasion veteran, semicloseted homosexual and now speechwriter to Simon ben Levi, the charismatic right-wing prime minister (more in the mold of Benjamin Netanyahu than Ariel Sharon). Making an obvious reference to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, the novel opens with a gun shot: a Jewish settler fires the pistol, and it is Nathan who gets a bullet in the ear. This brush with death heightens Nathan's disenchantment with Simon's politics, impelling his investigation into the assassin's real target and prompting him to search for Simon's estranged son, the enigmatic archeologist Gabriel. Bukiet (Signs and Wonders) keeps a steady level of suspense simply by capitalizing on Nathan's blindness. After encounters with colorful characters like Gita Mamoun, a philanthropic female Palestinian arms mogul and a fanatical rabbi called Moshe X, Nathan discovers a labyrinthine conspiracy code-named Strange Fire, which somehow involves Gabriel. In a region as convoluted as the Middle East, conspiracies are as central as ordinary politics, and it's almost a shame when all is finally revealed after the fascinating deployment of so many Red Sea herrings.