The third book in Edward Whittemore’s acclaimed Jerusalem Quartet is a riveting tale of espionage and intrigue in which the outcome of World War II and the destiny of the Middle East could hinge on the true identity of one shadowy man.
On a clear night in 1941, a hand grenade explodes in a Cairo bar, taking the life of Stern, a petty gunrunner and morphine addict, nationality unknown, his aliases so numerous that it’s impossible to determine whether he was a Moslem, Christian, or Jew.
His death could easily go unnoticed as Rommel’s tanks charge through the desert in an attempt to take the Suez Canal and open the Middle East to Hitler’s forces. Yet the mystery behind Stern’s death is a top priority for intelligence experts. Master spies from three countries converge on Joe O’Sullivan Beare, who is closer to Stern than anyone, in an effort to unravel the disturbing puzzle. The search for the truth about Stern leads O’Sullivan Beare through the slums of Cairo to a decaying former brothel called the Hotel Babylon, populated by unusual characters. Slowly, the mystery of Stern unravels as Whittemore explores the tragedy and yearning of one man fighting a battle for the human soul.
The stunning conclusion to Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet: The remarkable story of an Israeli agent who infiltrates Syrian intelligence, keying victory in the Six Day War.
Yossi is an ideal agent for the Mossad—an Iraqi Jew, an idealist, and a charming loner, fluent in Arab dialects. Tajar, a brilliant agent, recruits and manages Yossi, code-named “the Runner.” Thus begins the longest-running and most successful operation in the history of Israeli intelligence. Yossi’s cover is Halim, a Syrian businessman who has returned home from Buenos Aires and whose charm inspires high-level friendships. His reputation leads to an opportunity that he can’t refuse: Tajar becomes a double agent infiltrating Syrian intelligence.
Meanwhile, in the desert oasis of Jericho, Abu Musa, an Arab patriarch, and Moses the Ethiopian, meet each day over games of shesh-besh and glasses of Arak to ponder history and humanity. We learn about the friendship of Yossi’s son, Assaf, an Israeli soldier badly wounded during the Six Day War, and Yousef, a young Arab teacher who, in support of the Palestinian cause, decides to live as an exile in the Judean wilderness.
The second book of the Jerusalem Quartet, in which the fate of the Holy City is determined by an epic poker game played in the back of a Jerusalem antiques shop.
On New Year’s Eve, 1921, three men sit down to a poker game. The Great Jerusalem Poker Game, as it’s eventually known, continues for the next twelve years — the players unwilling to leave a competition whose prize is control of Jerusalem. The players are as exotic as the game: Cairo Martyr, a one-time African slave, now the Middle East’s chief supplier of aphrodisiac mummy dust; Joe O’Sullivan Beare, an Irish tradesman with a specialty in sacred phallic amulets; and Munk Szondi, an Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army colonel turned dedicated Zionist.
But before the final hand is played to determine the destiny of the Holy City, a dangerous new player enters the picture: Nubar Wallenstein, an Albanian alchemist determined to achieve immortality, and heir to the world’s largest oil syndicate. He finances a vast network of spies dedicated to destroying the players, and his aim is to win complete power over Jerusalem.
In 1840, Plantagenet Strongbow, the twenty-ninth Duke of Dorset, seven-feet-seven-inches tall and the greatest swordsman and botanist of Victorian England, walks away from the family estate and disappears into the Sinai Desert carrying only a large magnifying glass and a portable sundial. He emerges forty years later as an Arab holy man and anthropologist, now the author of a massive study of Levantine sex — and the secret owner of the Ottoman Empire.
Meanwhile, Skanderbeg Wallenstein has discovered the original Bible, lost on a dusty bookshelf in the monastery library. To his amazement, it defies every truth held by the three major religions. Nearly a century later, Haj Harun, an antiquities dealer who has acted as guardian of the Holy City for three thousand years, uncovers the hidden Bible.
There is little of the overt fantastic in this great, bloody sprawl of a novel, in which tortured souls follow twisting paths through WWII Shanghai; rather, there is a gradual stretching of the ordinary to the extraordinary. And eventually all those twisted paths converge at the final, dreadful performance of Quin's Shanghai Circus.