Yasmina Khadra's "The Attack" is up for a Dagger
Khadra apparently felt the same way, once telling an interviewer that in the Llob novels, “I dreamed of writing station books, books funny and without claim that you could read while waiting for the train or the bus, or while gilding yourself with the sun at the seaside. … I had never thought that Superintendent Llob was going to exceed the borders of the country and appeal to readers in Europe, and America.” If his crime books were not quite the same as his other books, I reasoned, then his other books must not be crime books.
Perhaps, then, Khadra shared my pleasant surprise when the Crime Writers Association in the United Kingdom short-listed The Attack for this year's Duncan Lawrie International Dagger award, alongside novels by Karin Alvtegen, Christian Jungersen, Åsa Larsson, Jo Nesbø and Fred Vargas.
The Attack is a curious kind of crime story. Its protagonist and first-person narrator, Amin Jaafari, is an Arab surgeon living comfortably and successfully in Tel Aviv who is shocked when a suicide bomb rips through a crowded restaurant, and his wife disappears at the same time. Though the novel has police as characters, the investigator is Jaafari himself, driven to find out what compelled his wife into an association with terrorists. Perhaps this is why the CWA judges called The Attack "A harrowing psychological novel which explores the motivations of a suicide bomber, and lifts the conventions of the whydunnit."
And Jaafari is a curious protagonist. The novel's first eighty or so pages contain numerous references to the effects of his wife's disappearance: "The tornado that knocked down all my supports" or "when I resolve to guard against losing control." At least in the novel's first half, though, Jaafari never seems in danger of losing his moorings. He's too vital an observer, too interested in reporting on the seething world around him to be convincing as a man in danger of falling part. And that makes him a lively investigator.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007