For comments on books one, two and three of The Jerusalem Quartet, Sinai Tapestry, Jerusalem Poker, and Nile Shadows please follow the respective links.
The primary difficulty in commenting on the final novel in the Jerusalem Quartet is in putting it in context. This book stands alone better than any other it’s predecessors. Quin’s Shanghai Circus—a book outside the Jerusalem Quartet—has more unifying events and characters relating to the Jerusalem Quartet than Jericho Mosaic, the quartet’s end cap, does. When viewed on its own, it is an exceptional novel. Readers only have to detach themselves from all they’ve grown to love about the first three books to appreciate Jericho Mosaic for what it is. And in giving up so much, I'd be lying if I said Whittemore doesn't give birth to a bit a resentment on the part of at least this reader.
"Being holy, Jerusalem was an endless source of myth. (page 5)"
Finally. After a book long excursion in Egypt we are home in Jerusalem. The affect this shift in setting has on the reader is substantial and with it comes the great expectations of the series first two books. Sure, like the previous works in the series, there is a great deal of travel: Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, and most notably the titular Jericho, but the beginning of the novel is in Jerusalem. As readers, we brace ourselves in preparation for the bizarre originality that Jerusalem seems to best bring out in Whittemore. However, as the Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want."
Jericho Mosaic is about an Iserli spy and unrest the Middle East that spans forty years. Tajar, a crippled Israeli intelligence officer 'raises' Yossi, and Iraqi Jew, to the be the greatest Israeli spy ever. Their success is unprecedented--both in dangers and results. Bell is a horrifically scared, Caucasian Christian Holy man who greatly resembles a British intelligence commander from Nile Shadows. Anna Cohen moves to Jerusalem from Cairo and finally settles into a sustainable life including a family of sorts. There is also a lot dealing with the PLO and KGB, the Israeli six day war, and "The Runner" operation: the most secretive espionage circuit ever conceive in the Middle East. Despite the cast of characters and the return to Jerusalem, events are more predictable, and mundane than what we've come to expect from the author.
There are secret agents, double agents, and nods to "a mostly blind Argentine" author but missing are the unique scenarios, and wandering character connections. Much of the Whittemore's pontifications on life are present as we see Bell's life, and that of his close friends, unfold in Jericho. In this novel there is less of a sense of 'story telling' and more of a generic feeling of plot, suspense and straightforward narrative.
Much like Sinai Tapestry the narrative bounces around between multiple characters and never sticks with one long enough to become attached rather, leaves you wanting more. Unlike Sinai Tapestry, Jericho Mosaic is that last book in the series; there is nothing more to follow. All the characters and their lives are extremely interesting but in comparison the presentation feels shallow and superficial to previous characters in the series.
Repetition--a concept one would think Whittemore immune to based on previous books--plagued Jericho Mosaic. I can recall at least three passages which detail the KGB's move to Cyprus; long passages that did nothing to advance the story. It was almost as if Whittemore was running out of material. Themes of two-sided characters, inherent to a 'spy' book, are brought up but never fully explored. There is also a woefully underdeveloped concept of disfigurement: Bell with the face of a demon, Moses an Ethiopian eunuch, Tajar a cripple due to past war injuries all go on to achieve great things in their life yet the novel continually focuses on real horrors of World War II that so easily shatter the phantastic setting of quasi-reality the author had achieve in previous entries. The most subtle, and best developed theme, was of the power of the exile abroad: Bell, Anna, and Yossi all find strength in being away and control over their lives that never seemed possible.
Jericho Mosaic is an exceptional novel and successful on all levels; a book with many layers that would benefit from re-reading. Perhaps the book's only true flaw is that it was the published closure of the Jerusalem Quartet with its meager relations to the previous novels it may have been better to stand on it's own.