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The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World Hardcover – June 14, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

The Arab Islamic world is known for religious extremism, ethnic conflicts, and, now, the overthrow of seemingly unshakable regimes—but if anything has become clear, it’s that our understanding of the region remains shrouded and incomplete. The seeds of revolution, radicalism, and—possibly—reform are buried in the individual stories of millions of people whose lives determine the fates of their societies, people whose motivations are as common, and as strange, as our own.

Here is one of those stories—and the story of how this world is being transformed, one life at a time.
Joseph Braude is the first Western journalist ever to secure embed status with an Arab security force, assigned to a hardened unit of detectives in Casablanca who handle everything from busting al-Qaeda cells to solving homicides. One day he’s given the file for a seemingly commonplace murder: a young guard at a warehouse killed in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Braude is intrigued by the details of the case: the sheer brutality of the murder, the identities of the accused—a soldier—and the victim, a shadowy migrant with links to a radical cleric, and the odd location: a warehouse owned by a wealthy member of one of the few thriving Jewish communities in the Arab world. After interviewing the victim’s best friend, who tearfully insists that the true story of the murder has been covered up by powerful interests, Braude commits to getting to the bottom of it.

Braude’s risky pursuit of the shocking truth behind the murder takes him from cosmopolitan Marrakesh to the proud Berber heartland, from the homes of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country to the backstreets of Casablanca, where migrants come to make fortunes, jihad, and trouble, but often end up just trying to survive with dignity. The Honored Dead is a timely and riveting mystery about a society in transition, the power of the truth, and the irrepressible human need for justice.

Joseph Braude on THE HONORED DEAD

This book is about a murder in the Arab world. It’s about the Arab detectives who cracked the case. It’s about why the murder happened, and why the police tried to cover it up. And it’s about the culture and politics of North Africa and the Middle East that formed the backdrop to the killing.

But at the heart of this book is the story of a man who lost his best friend and couldn’t go on with his life until he learned the reasons why.

I met him a few years ago when I was embedded, as a journalist, with a police precinct in an underclass section of Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. I was there to get a street-level glimpse of an Arab security service and its strained relationship with the people it controls. Though the language and customs were different, in many ways what I found was much like life in the American inner city: poor families struggling to survive, young people trapped in a cycle of stark choices, and the global scourge of drugs and crime.

The remarkable man I met there is Muhammad Bari--unemployed, 57 or so, with a wife, eight kids, and some cats. Every morning after prayers in the local mosque, he used to meet up with his best friend, a homeless man named Ibrahim Dey. They would pass the time together in a rundown coffeehouse, watching Al-Jazeera and talking about anything and everything. One night, Ibrahim Dey was killed--beaten to death with a stick, in the warehouse where he had been sleeping for the past five years.

The cops told Bari it was a common homicide, a robbery gone wrong. They told me the same thing. But Bari didn’t believe it. He said he was sure there must be a dark conspiracy behind the crime, involving terrorists, drug cartels, or both. I wasn’t sure what to make of his theory at first, but something about Muhammad Bari and his sadness touched me deeply, whether what he believed made sense or not. Maybe I was moved because I had once lost my best friend too. Maybe I was ready to entertain the idea of a conspiracy because, back when I worked on counterterrorism cases for the FBI, I learned some dark secrets myself.

Muhammad Bari wanted to reinvestigate the crime, right under the noses of the Moroccan police, braving the authoritarian system he had learned to fear since he was a child. He felt it was the only way he could hope to regain his peace of mind, and the best way he could imagine to honor the memory of his friend. His plan was daring and revolutionary in a part of the world where state secrets are viciously guarded. It seemed like a sign that change might be stirring in North Africa.

Bari knew his plan would put him in jeopardy. He wanted me to help.

As we drew closer to the secret behind the crime, our assumptions about friendship and our own lives began to unravel.


Praise for The Honored Dead
The Honored Dead is a rare treasure in which every word does quadruple duty. It’s a crackling whodunit, an incisive political thriller, and a vivid travelogue, told by a complicated, memorable, and eminently likable protagonist. Spectacular.”
—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans

"...one of the most affecting, sympathetic accounts of Arab culture in recent memory.” – Kirkus, starred review

"A scholarly and perceptive observer, Braude intersperses the cloak-and-dagger narrative of the murder mystery with digressions on Morocco's history, geopolitics, and culture; the country's rich Jewish heritage; the role that magic, sorcery, and dream interpretation play in Moroccan society. This lyrical and engrossing book puts a human face on this 'moderate, constructive player' in the politics of the Middle East, giving readers a firsthand glimpse of its glittering religious, intellectual, cultural history--and its future."--Publishers Weekly

One of the smartest nonfiction titles for summer reading ... Journalist Joseph Braude draws on his unusual experience embedded with a Moroccan security squad to tell the story of a murder investigation that becomes a fascinating journey into the backrooms and byways of an Arab society.” – Christian Science Monitor

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527033
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,374,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Joseph Braude, author of two books on the Middle East and now at work on a third, is also a bilingual broadcaster in English and Arabic and a Middle East policy specialist affiliated with institutions in the United States and the Arab world.

His book The New Iraq, published in 2003 shortly after the American-led ouster of Saddam Hussein, examines the problems of resuscitating the country's civil society institutions. His second book, The Honored Dead, provides a rare glimpse into an Arab police force -- a plainclothes detective unit in Casablanca to which he was attached for nearly half a year as the first Western writer ever to be embedded with an Arab security service.

Joseph Braude has broadcast a weekly commentary for the past four years on Moroccan national radio, covering Arab and Islamic issues from a variety of perspectives. He publishes op-eds and investigative stories in Al-Majalla, a London-based Arabic magazine. His English writing can be found in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, Glamour, The New Republic, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He is also a producer of documentaries which air regularly on Public Radio International programs, and presents a weekly podcast in English called Eye on Arabia.

As a Middle East specialist, Joseph Braude serve as international liaison on behalf of a progressive policy research institution headquartered in the United Arab Emirates: the Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a visiting fellow at Washington's National Strategy Information Center (NSIC).

He is now at work on a new book about Arabic-language media.

In his spare time, he enjoys cooking Iraqi cuisine, playing jazz and Arabic music on piano and Oud, running, and yoga. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As you watch the Arab Spring unfold, are you curious about what life is like for the majority of people in the Arab world today? This narrative nonfiction book with a noir mystery mood provides you an entertaining way to learn more. The author's quest to help a Moroccan man of modest means find the truth behind why his best friend was murdered takes you on a tour of Morocco and gives you a lens into Moroccan life and culture that reveals the complexity and color of the Islamic world - ancient traditions of magic juxtaposed with Muslim beliefs, civilian interactions with the police, open-air food markets, ethnic minorities, and more (to say much more would spoil some surprises!). This is a great book for anyone who likes a gripping story that keeps revealing more layers -- and a perfect book for anyone who wants to get a feel for life in the developing nations of the Middle East. An extra bonus is that you really feel like you get to know the author who shares the intriguing story of how his own personal and family history brought him to be a journalist embedded with the Moroccan police in the first place.
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Format: Hardcover
In his unaffected tone, Joseph Braude takes his readers inside the world that so often dominates the front page of the newspaper, and shows us what life is like beyond the headlines. While his American status gives him access to shadow the Moroccan police, Braude does not choose to spend his time among the powerful. Instead, he befriends a poor, helpless man whose best friend was mysteriously killed. Moved by his past, Joseph explores his own personal history while assisting his new friend in finding out the truth about the murder. Filled with integrity and honesty, this book was an adventure from start to finish. I highly recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover
"The Hon­ored Dead: A Story of Friend­ship, Mur­der, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World" by Joseph Braude is a non­fic­tion book about the author's expe­ri­ence being embed­ded with a Moroc­can secu­rity squad.

Jour­nal­ist Joseph Braude has spent sev­eral month embed­ded in a Moroc­can police precinct in Casablanca. The city of Casablanca has many issues (beside star crossed lovers run­ning away from the Vichy rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Nazis) drug car­tels, al-Qaeda cells as well as crimes which plague any cities its size.

Mr. Braude goes on his own to inves­ti­gate a mur­der of an unem­ployed Mus­lim Berber. While inves­ti­gat­ing the author goes on a wild ride into Moroc­can Mus­lim soci­ety involv­ing cover-ups, duplic­ity and fraud.

"The Hon­ored Dead: A Story of Friend­ship, Mur­der, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World" by Joseph Braude is a smart book which brings the reader into the inner­most Arab soci­ety. Mr. Braud, a jour­nal­ist, got an amaz­ing level of access and cor­po­ra­tion he got from the Moroc­can government.

Mr. Braude writes in lyri­cal prose and engag­ing story. More than sim­ply telling a story, the book also teaches about Mid­dle East pol­i­tics, Morocco's cul­ture, rich Jew­ish her­itage, his­tory, pol­i­tics and, to my great sur­prise, the role magic plays in the society.

While the book might be about solv­ing a mys­tery, it is much more than that. The insight into a for­eign soci­ety where the police not only enforce the law, but also tries to main­tain a pre­cious bal­ance within the soci­ety. This bal­ance could break eas­ily with the sim­ple pre­sump­tion of insult or intent to insult not only a per­son, but a whole society.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This powerfully written memoir describes the author's methodical unraveling of a Casablanca murder. While investigating the case, he visits with members of different social strata in Morocco: police, businessmen, and the impoverished. As he uncovers the facts of the case, the structure of Moroccan society, and of Arab society in general, is elucidated for the Western reader.

What sets this book apart from other documentary stories is the tension and paradox that pervade its milieu. Every act, every conversation, is informed and motivated not only by the individual personalities involved, but by the long history of the groups the person belongs to - religions, families, nations, professions, social classes. Understanding a simple greeting might require understanding a thousand years of history.

I don't think I have read a book in which there is so much underlying tension in its characters, and in which virtually every character - criminal or police officer; victim or perpetrator; highly educated or ignorant; modern or old-fashioned; idealistic or materialistic - is drawn in such nuanced shades of gray. These disjunctions may suggest a false antithesis: much of the time, characters represent both poles of a dichotomy simultaneously.

Yet the book also describes universals. Tabloid journalism, sports heroes, pop stars - even a Britney Spears song - appear in cultures in some ways utterly different from TMZ's. Good friends and good food are one of the unifying forces that ties the book together. Ultimately, the author's own character shines through this dark and intricate story.
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