Fic­tion

Death in Shangri-La

  • Review
By – March 29, 2018

This high-stakes thriller — the sec­ond of three titles in the Dotan Naor Thriller series, but the first to be trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish — takes its pro­tag­o­nist, a for­mer Israeli secu­ri­ty oper­a­tive now work­ing as a pri­vate detec­tive, far out­side of his usu­al ter­rain. It’s not Israel or Israel’s neigh­bor­ing states that Naor vis­its on his mis­sion, but the Far East: India, the dis­put­ed Kash­mir region, and oth­er Asian nations touched by the Himalayas.

Naor has agreed to find the miss­ing son of an acquain­tance who has made mil­lions as a cut­throat Israeli arms mer­chant. Willy Mizrachi’s son, Itiel, is seek­ing peace at an ashram in the Himalayas, a region pop­u­lar with young Israelis. In his father’s eyes, Itiel’s goals are worth­less, yet Willy believes he’s redeemable, or at least per­suad­able. He wants him back home.

In this sto­ry, the Himalayas are also home to a for­mi­da­ble Islam­ic extrem­ist pop­u­la­tion that is not only at odds with the long-estab­lished, dom­i­nant non-west­ern reli­gions, but ready to attack Israelis wher­ev­er they are found. One such ter­ror­ist tar­get is the Chabad House in Man­ali, India.

One of the novel’s chief strengths lies in the lik­a­bil­i­ty of Naor, who is at once hard-boiled and sub­tle, shrewd and fal­li­ble. Its fun­da­men­tal attrac­tion, how­ev­er, is Zur’s abil­i­ty to describe the fab­u­lous places that his plot rolls through, cre­at­ing a fan­tas­tic kalei­do­scope of scenery, neigh­bor­hoods, and tastes. He has writ­ten a fast-paced and sus­pense­ful sto­ry while seam­less­ly impart­ing a strik­ing series of unique impres­sions about the book’s far­away setting.

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

Discussion Questions