Bernard-Henri Levy's Who Killed Daniel Pearl? offers a harrowing look at Pearl's life and tragic death wrought with a unique blending of journalism, novelist's imagination, and autobiography. Levy--an acclaimed French philosopher and bestselling author in Europe--in 2002 launched a one-year journey to understand Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl and the circumstances that led to his murder in Pakistan; the briskly paced result traces a thread from Pearl's killers through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and, possibly, to Al-Quaida. In building his case, Levy takes none of the news stories on face value. At great personal risk, he follows the same steps that Pearl walked to the very farm house where the journalist was killed. He seems to question everything and provides bearing witness as the truth-telling reportage required in a nation like Pakistan that "has lost even the very idea of what a free press could be."
But Levy does not let his interrogative mind crush the emotional weight of his subject. He questions himself frequently, undermines his own assumptions, and continually returns to the man, Pearl: "a man who was ordinary and exemplary, normal and admirable." Ultimately, the book is a powerful work of compassion as much as a valuable bit of detective work. It is about a good man who died too soon as well as the terrible alliances that could perform such an act against him. Levy does not want Pearl's lessons to be lost to the world. He, like Pearl, seeks a "gentle Islam" that will resist the ring of blood and hate in what Levy calls "the beginning of the grand struggle of the century." --Patrick OKelley
From Publishers Weekly
Ostensibly an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, this ends up being a much more ambitious account of the nefarious complicity of factions as varied as the Pakistan's ISI (the secret service), regional Islamist groups, a wealthy landowner, Pearl defendant Omar Sheikh and al-Qaida. It's a gripping read, as full of suspenseful twists as of bold and occasionally loose theories. At their root is Sheikh, the English-bred Pakistani radical who was convicted of masterminding the Pearl crime. But this conviction, in the author's fast-moving mind, is far from an open-and-shut case, and Lvy follows up his preliminary conclusion that "the affair contained a heavy and terrible secret." What that secret is grows and changes, but in the final analysis it comes down to Sheikh being an operative of both the ISI and al-Qaida and then taking the fall for both at the trial. Pearl, Levy argues, was killed not for who he was, but because of what he had discovered. The conclusions, however, are in a sense less important than the ride that gets us there. The author's moments of gonzo journalism are thrilling, as when he penetrates a forbidden madrasa (seminary) by posing as "a special representative of the French president." The earlier passages of the book, which take some literary license in describing what Pearl must have felt, is alone worth the price of admission. This book is a controversial bestseller in France, where Levy has long been a leading philosopher and writer. Here, interest in Pearl and the larger issues makes this both fascinating and essential, even if you don't quite buy it all, and a credit to the investigative reporter whose work it seeks to honor.
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