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Assassins of the Turquoise Palace Hardcover – September 6, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Carefully researched and vividly written... This account of political violence underscores the fraught, intricate relations between Iran and the West. A lively account of an extraordinary trial ... an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal." - The New York Times

Named a New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and Best Nonfiction of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews

"[Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is a painstaking and riveting account—a true story that reads like an international thriller."—The Daily Beast, (“Ten Books That You Might Have Missed But Shouldn’t”)

“[A] riveting account of a multiple murder and trial that led to a paradigm shift in Europe’s relations with post-revolutionary Iran…. Hakakian… deploys all of her talents as a former producer at 60 Minutes and a poet in her native Farsi to tell the human and political story behind the news… A nonfiction political thriller of the highest order.” —Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

“Even as they continue to breach every known international law, all the while protesting at interventions in their 'internal affairs,' the theocrats in Tehran stand convicted of mounting murderous interventions in the affairs of others. Roya Hakakian's beautiful book mercilessly exposes just one of these crimes, and stands as tribute to the courageous dissidents and lawyers who managed one of that rarest of human achievements; an authentic victory for truth and justice.” —Christopher Hitchens

“Assassins of the Turquoise Palace throws light on the rivalries and fears within Iran’s cast exile community… carefully researched and vividly written…In addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, [it] can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal.” —New York Times Book Review

[An] admirable… look at the September 17, 1992, terror killing of four Kurdish exiles who were holding a meeting in a small restaurant in Berlin… [Hakakian] does a worthy job of presenting the facts through the eyes of the men who survived the shooting and the German authorities who prosecuted the case… the focus on Middle East politics should give this broad appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

"'I feel myself as a translator,' she said, adding that as a Jew in Iran and now as an Iranian in America, she has always hovered on the periphery. 'My job is to tell what gets lost in the narrative about Iran—which is not the nuclear story, not the wiping-Israel-off-the-map story, not the ones that are in the headlines, but the stories that are sort of insider accounts, the stories that have deeply shaped us,' she said. 'There are these overlapping spaces that I do inhabit, and I stand there, trying to pass information from one sphere to the other.'" —from Roya Hakakian's Washington Post profile

“This is a brilliant, riveting book, with all the elements of a great thriller—a horrific crime, sociopathic villains, international intrigue, personal betrayals, a noble prosecutor and an honorable judge. And it is all too real: with remarkably comprehensive reporting and brisk, smart writing, Roya Hakakian has told a great story but, more important, she has made plain the lethal immorality at the heart of Iran's regime” —Joe Klein, Time Magazine

“[A] political thriller… thoroughly researched, dramatically told account…Reader’s will find everything they could ask for… -and more…discussed in riveting detail… [a] fine book.” —Washington Independent Book Review

“Insightful and detailed… [The Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is not limited to a historical account… It is a rumination on the Islamic Republic’s culture of terror, and as such it delves into the personal lives of the victims [and] their broken families… [A] captivating narrative.” —PBS

“Roya Hakakian is something rare: a poet turned investigative reporter. The outcome of this unusual fusion is a work of journalistic revelation, written so fluidly and gorgeously, it is a masterpiece.”—Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes

“As the world contemplates the pressing predicament of Iran, Roya Hakakian offers one possible solution through a riveting tale that is most timely and profoundly urgent. This superb true story is much more than an international In Cold Blood— it is a stunning parable of the central struggle of our times between totalitarianism and the rule of law.”—R. James Woolsey, CIA Director 1992-1994

“Gripping…” —New Haven Register

About the Author

Roya Hakakian is a former associate producer at CBS's 60 Minutes and a recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction. She's the author of two books of poetry in Persian and the acclaimed memoir Journey from the Land of No. Her opinions and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She lives in Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119117
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Assassins is a compelling thriller that also wrestles with important issues facing the West and Iran. It showed me both the human side of both assassin and victim; political activist and party line enforcer; real-politique politicians and truth seeking men of the law. Instead of a dry history book -- its unique narrative non-fiction style reminded me of Copote's In Cold Blood. It drew me in and wouldn't let me go -- a rare feat for a book about a historical event.

With the reading of the final verdict that shocked Europe and Iran, it adds to the debate on a core issue the West always faces. Should they stand up for human rights or side with stability? Does stability mean lapsing into unnecessary deference? This book better than most showed me the actual human faces and lives caught in the balance. I really recommend it for anyone looking to get behind the headlines in Iran and even the wider Middle East or simply looking for a thrilling read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I went to Iraq in 2006. One of the first questions I asked my minder was, "Why does everyone say Iran is behind the violence here?" He pinched his thumbs together like a gamer handling an X-Box remote, "When Iran sees things going in a direction it doesn't like: a tribunal, sanctions, democratic protests in Beirut, it presses it's operatives buttons, effectively instructing,. "Kidnap here, detonate there." I believed him. He was a good man I knew knew more than I and I could tell he had nothing at stake to lie. It was not however until I read Roya Hakaian's Assassins From The Turquoise Palace that I saw laid out with evidence supported by no less a credible an insider than Iran's former president how the Ayatollah issues a decree with the names of 500+ dissidents on it to be targeted for termination. You may say, "The US uses drones to kill promulgators like al-Alwaki and death squads to dispose of bin Ladens." The Iranians target minorities championing democracy and equal rights for the oppressed and it targets it's own. Like the Soprano mob (I now finally understand why pundits' use of pejoratives like 'thugs' and 'gangsters' isn't cheap muckraking but rather calling a thing by its right name) the regime forgets who in its apparatus can be trusted and metes out the most barbaric treatment (solitary confinement, beatings, whipping, and "truckicide" the not so accidental collision with cement trucks) for operatives who've for no reason save bureaucratic paranoia provoked the Ayatollah's ire). In 1997 at the end of the trial documented in her revelatory tome, Ms. Hakakian points out that the international assassinations of Iran's opponents halted when the Ayatollah and his Special Operations Groups were unprecedentedly indicted in the assassination in Germany of 5 Kurdish Iranian exiles.Read more ›
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By Aramin on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a great read. A breathtaking thriller full of twists and turns. I highly recommend it even if you have no interest in Iran. This is an international terrorism story and a courtroom drama that takes you inside one of the most exciting political trials of our time. I got really attached to the victims and their families and found their quest for justice inspirational.
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Iran ,with its magnificent history, its splendors its poets roses its civilization pre-dating anything in the West, has of late succumbed to the irrationality of fascism. Its fascism, though, is not done by brown shirted thugs but by robe wearing "religious " scholars . Since the revolution which toppled the corrupt shah and his western allies, Iran has been a sea change, as it were, in the middle east.While so many people of all political stripes supported the new Islamic republic with enthusiasm,ominous portents appeared. The seizing of the american embassy was the first blow, followed by years of exile for many, followed by repeated 'accidents' against prominent Iranian exiles in Europe .For many years, the governments of various countries, fearing the financial consequences of the Iranians , did nothing.Until one day in Berlin... This story then begins in Berlin, with a group of Kurdish expatriates , meeting in a restaurant. The looming specter of assassinations of prominent dissidents as had happened in Vienna, haunted the group. The author is a poet, and she uses all of her[considerable] gifts in telling this tale of murder, fanaticism, and eventual justice. Although there is no real justice in these type situations,codified law stands in for revenge.And the judge and prosecutor in this case , over 4 agonizing years saw to it that justice was eventually served. Remarkable in its precision[read her gorgeous description of the courthouse and the poetry leaps forward], very well told, a story that NEEDS be told of rogue governments hit teams and the dual power of Oil and religion. Powerful and timely, hugely recommended.
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By MARTIN SMITH on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A great read indeed. Like a novel... and shines light on a slice of history not well known. Roya, it's a great book.. You put me there, at the restaurant and in the courtroom and most of all in the minds and hearts of those who lived it. Congratulations. Martin Smith
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book - it's certainly an important topic, and in all fairness, a true story.

But, I had a difficult time following Hakakian's writing and staying engaged. It just seemed all over the place without developing the background for non-local readers.

It was a short read but felt soooo long. I hate not finishing books and was hoping for the turning point once the trial began, but left feeling meh.

And coming from an English major/lawyer, that's saying a lot!
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