'Crescent Moon' Counts Down To Political Mayhem Fatima Bhutto (niece of assassinated Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto) has written several volumes of nonfiction and poetry; her first novel is a delicate but tense political thriller.


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'Crescent Moon' Counts Down To Political Mayhem

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Our reviewer Alan Cheuse is recommending a book that's a journey deep into Pakistan. He just picked up the first novel from Fatima Bhutto. She's related to the Bhuttos of the political dynasty. Her book is "The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The story opens rather quietly in the tribal territories of northwest Pakistan. Three adult brothers gather around the breakfast table in a Shia household early on a drizzly morning on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid. Violence feels imminent, so the first order of business is to make sure they don't all pray together at the same mosque. As Bhutto writes, it's too dangerous - too risky to place all the family together in one mosque that could easily be hit. They no longer know by whom.

The book counts down toward an explosive afternoon. The eldest brother, Aman Erum, and erstwhile businessman with secret ties to the ruling military takes a rattletrap taxi on a trip to pray at a mosque some distance from the house. Hayat hops on his motorbike and heads out for a fateful rendezvous with other members of a conspiratorial group of university students.

Sikander, the middle brother and a physician at the local hospital, sets out on a mission of mercy to deliver a baby in difficult labor and runs into a Taliban checkpoint. Ordered to identify himself, Sikander cannot bear to say the truth, that he's Shia.

Bhutto herself goes all out to set the truth before the reader -the difficult and sometimes confusing and disturbing truth of life in this part of the world. She works with the delicacy of a poet and the primetime urgency of a frontline correspondent in order to capture the torturous outcries of her beloved country.

SIEGEL: The author is Fatima Bhutto, and her new novel is "The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon." Alan Cheuse had our review. His latest book is "Prayers For The Living."

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