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The Project

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This novel is billed as a fast-paced political thriller. Fast-paced it definitely is, but Day of the Jackal it isn't. Instead, Israeli novelist Chafets (Hang Time, LJ 3/1/96) offers a quick romp reminiscent of early Irving Wallace, albeit not so long-winded. Set at the turn of this century, the plot has the first Jewish president, Dewey Goldberg, and his columnist buddy trying to fathom the character and actions of Israeli prime minister Elihu Barzel. Barzel can be described as a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and his agenda includes making lots of trouble for Dewey and his administration. Amid much realpolitik doubletalk and many red herrings, this novel comes to a predictable but good-hearted conclusion. Readers looking for true suspense and really far-fetched plot lines should look into recent political memoirs, but Chafets's novel will be enjoyed. Recommended for general collections.‘Lesley C. Keogh, Bethel P.L., Ct.

Even though it deals with such heavy-weight issues as the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East and Israel's meddling in an American election, this new thriller by Chafets (Inherit the Mob) has a cozy, downhome (hamische, as they say in Yiddish) quality, a welcome rarity in the current marketplace of blood and techno-thunder. There's also a healthy dash of sly insider's humor (Chafetz, now a columnist for the Jerusalem Report, worked as a press officer for Prime Minister Menachem Begin). It's 2000, and Dewey Goldberg, America's first Jewish president, sits uneasily in the White House‘having been elevated from Speaker of the House to chief executive 11 months earlier in the wake of a boating accident that killed both the president and the veep. Goldberg seems to have a good chance at winning a full term, until word leaks out that the enigmatic Israeli prime minister, Elihu Barzel, is pressuring American Jews to support the Republican candidate, right-wing Southern populist Earl Childes. Goldberg asks his old college friend Charlie Walker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, to find out why. Walker digs up some frightening facts about Barzel's past and his involvement in a shadowy military operation called The Project, which has something to do with the Armageddon being predicted for the year 2001 by Reverend Bobby Silas, a powerful American Christian militant. The plot's weighty bones don't stop Chafetz from animating a large and extremely colorful cast of minor characters, or from spreading his tart comments on politics and religion like horseradish on gefilte fish. (Apr.)

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