I’d like to tell you about my new book, The Honored Dead.

It’s 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 the 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.


  1. Genevieve Gwynne says

    Thanks for taking the time and energy to write this–I am looking forward to reading it. I grew up with a father who was embedded in Czechoslovakia and Austria as a national (full immersion training in German and Czech) in the early 1950s and 1960s as part of US Army intelligence. He did not speak very much about it (probably would have had to kill me) so I can only guess at what he must have felt.

    He died early–my age, 59–from health complications related to occupational stress. Too bad he’s not around: he’d really enjoy your work…

    I live in the wilds (so to speak) of Montana and the nearest bookstore is 2 hours away. As an editor/writer myself (also have a jazz CD in progress in case you like traditional vocal jazz) I would greatly appreciate getting my hands on the ms. Do you send out review copies?


    Jennie G.

  2. Michael P McCarthy says

    I heard your interview with Mayor Cianci and became very interested in purchasing your book .Being an active policeman in Providence it really peaked my interest. Looking forward to reading the books .

  3. I just finished reading The Honored Dead last night. It was fascinating – I couldn’t put it down. Am glad to have found this post and to read your own description of the book. Congratulations!

  4. Excellent book, Joseph. Except for the interruptions due to work, I haven’t been able to put it down. The book was recommended to me by Michael Totten, and as usual his judgement was well placed. Looking forward to more of your stuff.

  5. Guy Koretz says

    I enjoyed your book. It covered a lot of territory. I know you had to change names, etc to obscure some things. But I found myself wondering if I could trust any of the characters. Probably you most of all. It seemed more like a novel than anything else. Imagine my surprise when I brought it to a coffee shop in Salt Lake city where I was meeting my son and he said, “Hey, I exchanged a couple of e-mails with that guy.” Its a small world, whether Morrocco, Israel or Utah!

  6. hugo cavendish says

    I am 3/4 of the way through your book, and found it quite fascinating, and looking forward to the final denoument! I have been to Morocco many times, but not to Casablanca, and although Jewish myself have never met any Jewish Moroccans. When visiting Jewish sites in Fez, Marrakech etc I have identified myself as Jewish to ordinary Moroccans and have not once felt any degree of antipathy – only courtesy and friendliness. I would be interested to learn how much of your story, or the characters and locales, were factual or fictionalized: is the Toledano family included in the account given their actual name, or is there a little poetic licence here?

  7. robert mckenna says

    I’ve just finished the book and yes it was fascinating, intriguing and very readable.
    It seemed amazing to me that the author’s random embedment in the security forces of Casablanca could yield in such short time such an extraordinary story. How fortuitous was it that a most unusual murder took place just as the author was embedded and in a warehouse owned by a jew. How fortuitous that the author’s mother’s cousin and Bari’s wife’s grandfather were great pals – Bari being completely unrelated to the author and his meeting with him being extraordinarily unlikely or improbable.
    Sadly in recent years we have become accustomed to learning that a number of books purporting to be fact are much closer to fiction. I just hope that this does not turn out to be the case with this very readable account.

  8. Just finished The Honored Dead- a great GREAT read.
    Extra special to me having recently returned from Casablanca.

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