Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Review – Matt REES – “The Bethlehem Murders”

Publ: 2006
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978 1 84354 603 0
Genre: Crime fiction
Pages: 264p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ****
(also known as “The Collaborator of Bethlehem”)

What led you to pick up this book?
It was on the new paperbacks shelf in the library and it looked like a cosy crime.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
For decades, Omar Yussef has been a teacher of history to the children of Bethlehem. When a favourite former pupil, George Saba, is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerrilla, Yussef is convinced that he has been framed. With George facing imminent execution Yussef sets out to prove his innocence. Yussef falls foul of his headmaster and the local police chief, Saba's home is bombarded by the Israelis and anoher murder takes place. But with no one else willing to stand up for the truth, it is up to Yussef act, even as bloodshed and heartbreak surround him.

What did you think of the characters / style?
At the outset it appears the hero is a typical cosy crime hero – the aging schoolmaster who endeavors to do what the local police cannot – solve a murder. It is soon apparent that this book is much deeper than that. The hero remains a wonderful character but the cosiness is taken out of the book as the Palestinian situation becomes more and more a part of the plot. "The Collaborator of Bethlehem is the best-and the rarest-sort of mystery: exciting and compelling, but it is also a deeply moving story that will, for many readers, shed much needed light on the conditions in the Palestinian territories." David Liss

Omar Yussef series
1. The Bethlehem Murders (2007)
aka The Collaborator of Bethlehem
2. The Saladin Murders (2008)
aka A Grave in Gaza
3. The Samaritan's Secret (2009)
4. The Fourth Assassin (2010)

What did you like most about the book?
I always like books which teach one about places as well as entertaining one. This one also had the added advantage of taking the reader through some of the moral dilemmas facing all parties in modern Palestine.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.

Would I recommend it?
Yes. Not just to those who enjoy a good crime novel but also to those who want to learn more about how it feels to live in a war zone and modern Palestine.

Yet the gunmen thrived, they whose accomplishments and talents were of the basest nature, they who would have been obliterated had there been law and order and honor in the town. Perhaps Bethlehem was their town, after all, and it was Omar Yussef who was the outlaw interloper here, peddling contraband decency and running a clandestine trade in morality.

Matt REES was born in the UK.

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