Humphreys has written ten interconnected essays that offer a sympathetic but sober appraisal of today's Middle East, a region he sees as beset by "economic stagnation, weakness in the international arena, political instability and ideological confusion." He employs his mastery of Middle Eastern history and Islamic institutions to provide nuanced accounts of such diverse subjects as military dictatorships, women in public life, and Islam and human rights. The book's comparisons and contrasts with the Western (especially American) experience help make his subject all the more accessible to Western readers. He also provides clear and accurate appraisals of Islamic law, its impact on society, and Islamic political thought. His chapter on "The Myth of the Middle East Madman," which covers Gamal Abdel Nasser, Saddam Hussein, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, seems overdrawn -- but one could hardly find a better one-chapter treatment of his subject than his "Jihad and the Politics of Salvation."