Duet in Beirut

Mish­ka Ben-David; Evan Fal­l­en­berg, trans.
  • Review
By – June 17, 2015

In the after­math of a failed mis­sion, a debased and demot­ed Mossad agent leaves the agency only to stew in a brine of bit­ter­ness and self-loathing. Ronen with­draws from his fam­i­ly and friends into a dark space, and when he final­ly emerges it is with the inten­tion of embark­ing on the very assas­si­na­tion assign­ment he had been unable to com­plete the first time around. He returns to Beirut as a rogue agent, act­ing with­out the knowl­edge or sup­port of the Israeli government.

When Ronen dis­ap­pears, his wife quick­ly fig­ures out where he’s head­ed and, fran­tic with wor­ry, she informs Gadi, her husband’s pre­vi­ous super­vi­sor. He is now equal­ly con­cerned, know­ing that his friend and col­league could both cre­ate a treach­er­ous sit­u­a­tion for Israel and face death, impris­on­ment, and tor­ture in the process. Gadi’s con­cern is exac­er­bat­ed by feel­ings of guilt relat­ed both to super­vi­so­ry deci­sions that might have led Ronen to the fail­ure that is eat­ing him alive and the fact that Gadi had a pre­vi­ous rela­tion­ship with his friend’s wife, a woman he still loves despite his own hap­py marriage. 

Gadi attempts to wade through all of the bureau­crat­ic meet­ings, polit­i­cal bick­er­ing, and paper­work required to get approval to fol­low Ronen to Beirut. When it becomes clear that the red-tape process is tak­ing too long, that Gadi is run­ning out of time, he, too, starts break­ing the rules, ful­ly aware of the like­li­hood that this mis­sion will be his last.

Duet in Beirut is cer­tain­ly a spy thriller. There is plen­ty of sus­pense and action, but it is much more lay­ered than most books of this genre. The char­ac­ters are well devel­oped and ful­ly human. They strug­gle with the con­tra­dic­tions between their per­son­al feel­ings and ethics and their respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect their coun­try and its cit­i­zens. Their inter­nal strug­gles can­not help but seep over into rela­tion­ships with their fam­i­lies and one another.

Relat­ed Content:

Nao­mi Tropp recent­ly retired after a long career in non­prof­it man­age­ment. She worked on the Ann Katz Fes­ti­val of Books at the Indi­anapo­lis JCC for 9 of its twelve years and direct­ed the fes­ti­val for three of those years.

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