Mysterious Book Report Night Falls On Damascus Night Falls On Damascus by Frederick Highland

Thomas Dunn, $24.95, 259 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-33789-6

Night Falls On Damascus is about a world in terrible flux.  Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Kuwait were all created after World War I, “The Great War” as it was then called, from the remnants of the devastated Ottoman Empire.  They were then made protectorates of the British and French governments by the League of Nations.  This allowed the Brits, and the French, to exploit the resources and the people of the middle east at a time both Navys were converting from coal to . . . guess what . . . oil as a fuel to make steam to drive their ships.  It was also a time of revolutionary transition, from colonial to self-rule.  Throw in three, or four opposing religious groups and you have all of the elements of a maelstrom, one which, unfortunately, is still circulating today.

Still with me?  Good. Because this is the environment French-Syrian police inspector Nikolai Faroun finds himself in as he tries to solve the murder of Vera Tamiri, a social reformer trying to enlighten Arab women about health and welfare issues in a backward and repressive society.  Tamiri, “beautiful and controversial, from a prominent Damascus family,” was found murdered, her body stuffed in a burlap sack, and dumped in a river with her throat slashed.  Against a backdrop of political intrigue, societal interference and guerrilla warfare, Faroun, who himself is a man with an unsavory and mysterious past, struggles to solve the heinous crime.

I read this novel based only on its title because Syria has been prominent in the news-cycle lately, and I got more than I thought was coming.  The author packed a great deal of action, adventure and intrigue into a small novel.  I was surprised and you will be also.  It’s an excellent read.  You will find plenty of excellent reads at your local library too, where they have many programs for kids. And best of all, it’s free.


John Dwaine McKenna