A terrorist threat in Jerusalem sets off a chain of events that weave together the lives of an American journalist, an Israeli war hero, a Christian-Arab grocer, a Palestinian farmer and a budding terrorist.
This is the setting of A Vision of Angels (Owl Canyon Press) by Timothy Jay Smith, an award-winning author who lived in Jerusalem for two years.
Tensions run high from the beginning of the book. The action takes place during the week leading up to Easter, which coincides with Passover.
A suicide bomber on Jaffa Street leaves 10 dead and 15 injured; Palestinians are protesting their forced removal from a settlement in Ramallah; and an Israeli raid on a mosque during a mullah’s provocative speech causes a mass stampede. And now, Israeli intelligence gets wind of a planned bomb attack in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday.
Smith populates his book with colourful characters. David Kessler is an American journalist who wants to give conflict a human face. He previously worked in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and now finds himself in Israel covering the Mideast conflict. He is old fashioned enough to still use film for his pictures.
Major Jakov Levy is an Israeli war hero, “the saint of Sinai,” who, under pressure from the chief of staff to keep the potential terrorists out of Israel, closes the border with the Gaza Strip.
“Another bomb and we may have to close down the National Tourism Office,” he’s warned.
Meanwhile, at home, he is embarrassed by his 22-year-old son, Mishe, who’s a peace activist.
Issa is a grocer who works in the Old City. He’s a Christian, married to a Muslim and finds himself unwittingly caught in the stampede outside the mosque as he tries to rescue his father-in-law.
Amin Mousa is an Oxford-educated Palestinian farmer. Mousa is an informant, striking a deal with Jakov to provide information in exchange for passes to let his fruit trucks get through checkpoints without delay.
Mohammed is a 15-year-old whose brother was a Hamas fighter killed by Israeli soldiers. He now wants to help Hamas stage its next attack, determined to prove himself.
The author provides vivid, colourful description. You could almost smell the over-ripe tomatoes stacked in crates and hear the buzzing of flies that surround them.
The suspenseful plot moves very quickly. Hamas militants, unable to smuggle their bomb across the closed border, devise a plan to smuggle it out in David’s car, but he’s unexpectedly detoured on the way.
One of the cell members confesses to this plot, and the race is on to find David and retrieve the bomb, before the terrorists can get it.
Like his journalist character, Smith tries to give the different sides of this conflict a human face. The stories of all these characters and their families are slowly interwoven together before a climactic ending that is ultimately one of hope.
A Vision of Angels will be in stores in early July.