As a voracious reader of mysteries that have a contemporary political bent I always look forward to title suggestions from others. Last week a friend introduced me to Matt Benyon Rees and his protagonist, Omar Yussef. After reading THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM the first of four “Yussef” books, I am sold. Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell and others of their ilk have nothing on Mr. Rees who has created an evocative character that allows the reader to enter the byzantine politics of the Palestinian movement and its war against Israeli occupation by employing a newly created detective investigating his first crime. In reality, Yussef is a school teacher who is being forced to retire at the age of fifty-six and due to events he is forced, as a matter of honor to try and assist a former student who is falsely accused and arrested for collaborating with the Israelis. The story follows Yussef’s journey to free his protégé and the murderous events that ensue.
Mr. Rees is a superb writer who possesses a strong knowledge of Arab and Muslim traditions which he weaves throughout the narrative. The accuracy of the background political and social mores and institutions provides the reader their own education to try and understand why peace has been so difficult to achieve between Palestinians and Israelis since 1948. The author covers the gamut of issues that confront Israel and the Palestinians today; suicide bombings, corrupt leadership, the “iron fist” of Israeli occupation, and the effects of these policies on the Palestinian people. I recommend this book very highly and I look forward to reading the next one in the series, A GRAVE IN GAZA.

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