Book Review: Death in Dahab by Avi Bernstein

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Death in Dahab, Avi Bernstein’s debut novel, has all the ingredients of a crime-based thriller:

  • The drowning of a trainee scuba diver in mysterious circumstances
  • An investigation into her death by her instructor and his friends
  • The discovery of large-scale shark finning
  • Corrupt dive centre owners
  • A meeting with Bedouin elders
  • Somali pirates and the Egyptian secret police
  • A recluse with strange powers and martial art skills.

The book reads like a crime-based thriller, but in the Author’s Note Bernstein maintains “…everything you are about to read in this book is completely true”.

At several points in the book the coincidences and actions do appear implausible – but if we believe the author he has survived an amazing series of incidents. However, one issue dominates the book – shark finning. It’s unfortunate that Peter Benchley’s Jaws served to demonize all sharks. In fact, very few sharks are aggressive and perform a great service by maintaining the health of the oceans. Death in Dahab is not just an amazing story but highlights the plight of sharks today. In his Afterword Bernstein reports that:

“Every day around the world 300,000 sharks are killed. The vast majority of the sharks are killed for their fins which are used in a Far Eastern delicacy – shark fin soup. A genocide of 100 million sharks killed each year is occurring right now, a genocide that is going to have devasting consequences not only for the marine environment, but also for the human race.” (p.543)

Many of us will have seen shark fin soup on exotic menus, piles of fresh fins on docksides or dried ones in markets. Until reading Bernstein’s book I had not fully appreciated the scale of the slaughter nor the wider implications. It is thus understandable that there are sections of the book where the author sounds evangelical in his concern for sharks. His action, in founding Fins4Fins, to protect them is laudable. Elsewhere he explains:

“Fins4Fins is an organisation offering subsistence shark fishing communities an alternative through a tourist industry based on scuba diving. Fins4Fins provides training, facilities and infrastructure to subsistence shark fishing communities giving them the tools they need to make change. Fins4Fins gives ownership of businesses to shark fishing communities helping them become masters of their own future and guardians of their own environment.”

If I have one criticism of Death in Dahab it would be about the language used. This is not the strong language in authentic sounding exchanges, but the repeated use of long, multi-syllable words when a simple word would have been better. In the context of the story they seem inappropriate.

Death in Dahab is set in the Red Sea, an area popular with divers. Indeed, those of us who have been fortunate to dive in these waters will find the description of the dive sites and towns of Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab authentic. Certainly, for me the account of diving the ‘Blue Hole’ in Dahab relived the experience. His sympathetic and sensitive description of the people of the Sinai and the countryside makes this book one to read.


Avi Bernstein is a professional diving instructor who has lived and worked in India, Costa Rica, Cyprus and Israel. He lived and worked in the Sinai for nine years.

Contact Avi Bernstein at: www.facebook.com/DeathinDahab

  • Death in Dahab (2013) Bernstein Press by Avi Bernstein
  •  ISBN 9780992669928       (549 pages)

Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

Fred Lockwood

Fred Lockwood

Dr Fred Lockwood is Emeritus Professor of Learning and Teaching, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver and dived in the waters of Central America and Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Islands. Follow Fred at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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